It wasn’t quite an elevator pitch, but it was pretty close.
Peter Stewart still remembers ascending to the executive suite in the BellSouth building as a consolation prize from an outreach coordinator who declined to sponsor his event.
As serendipity would have it, CEO Duane Ackerman was standing there when the doors opened.
Instead of being star-struck, Mr. Stewart kicked into sales gear. Always prepared as an Eagle Scout himself, he used Mr. Ackerman’s support for Boy Scouts of America to start a conversation.
He walked out of the building with a $10,000 check to support the annual convention of AIESEC, a student-run nonprofit pairing 60,000 members in 110 countries with internships around the world.
Learning sales is one advantage of working with AIESEC, but it teaches them much more, said Mr. Stewart, now a senior vice president at Atlanta-based PGi, which provides Web conferencing software for more than 35,000 users.
AIESEC, the world’s largest student-run nonprofit, also helps them gain cultural sensitivity and learn how to manage projects, said Mr. Stewart, who participated in AIESEC at Georgia Institute of Technology and later worked for the organization.
Created in France after World War II to foster cultural exchanges, AIESEC now has a network of chapters in 800-plus universities. Its volunteers work with local companies to recruit temporary student workers or recent graduates from sister chapters at some of the world’s top institutions.
The AIESEC chapter from the University of Georgia hosted a luncheon April 24 at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to show how AIESEC can help local companies outsource global recruitment.
They stressed that having a foreign staffer can add new perspective on local operations or help prepare for global expansions.
AIESEC handles the whole process, from sourcing candidates to obtaining visas and finding apartments and transportation. The company just opens the position, pays a one-time fee and provides a $500 weekly stipend to cover expenses.
The group has been an integral part of PGi’s rapid overseas expansion, Mr. Stewart said. He’s using AIESEC to find a Brazilian intern who will help open a PGi office in her home country after finishing her U.S. experience at the Atlanta headquarters.
“You’re getting high-caliber candidates at a low cost,” he said.
To those wary of entrusting recruitment to college students, he noted that AIESEC is run by ambitious, well-educated volunteers and that the final hiring decisions are always up to the companies.
“These kids have no fear, or they just forget about their fear and they’re willing to try things,” Mr. Stewart said.
Rebecca Kelly, who attended the luncheon, also remembers how learning more about the world changed her life. A series of overseas exchanges including one with AIESEC led to a five-year appointment in Japan that kick-started her career. The instructor at UGA’s Terry College of Business now supports AIESEC as a way to give back.
“That’s the reason I’m 120 percent behind AIESEC. I believe in it. The program is what every student should definitely take advantage of,” Ms. Kelly told GlobalAtlanta.
Christina Khouri, president of AIESEC at UGA, hasn’t worked abroad with the program, but she studied at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, last summer. The classes were informative, but she benefited most from on-the-ground experience.
“It was the conversations we had outside of class and the different parts of the country that taught me the most most about the cultural, social, and political issues the country is facing,” Ms. Khouri said.
She’d like to see other students have the same experience but said that AIESEC needs help from local companies.
In Georgia, AIESEC has chapters at the University of Georgia, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech. For more information, visit www.aiesecus.com.