In AIESEC, we place a rather high premium on expectations. We like to manage the expectations of everyone we work with, from our colleagues, the students and recent graduates who join our programs, to the companies and organizations that choose to partner with us.
I am now in my fifth week of living in Mongolia, and frankly, it is only now that I am understanding why our organization values expectation setting and management so highly. I didn’t know what to expect out of the city of Ulaanbaatar, the country, my role, nor the organization. At the time, I saw this as a good thing, as I wanted to enter Mongolia with a blank slate, without good or bad impressions.
But when I got here, the experiences I had the first few weeks seemed to subconsciously implant a new set of expectations in my mind:
- Every trip to the Mongolian Immigration Agency will be filled with despair and aggravation.
- All that members of the expat community seem to do here is complain about life in Mongolia, and whine about how they are all still single.
- Everything is cheap, except when people find out that you are not Mongolian, then you get charged foreigner-tier prices.
- Mongolian food is completely and totally different to what I would usually eat.
- Winter is coming, and when it comes, it really does come. Prepare to die.
- Internet here sucks.
- The concept of customer service is not as strong here in comparison to other places I have lived in.
Part of what I find wrong with expectations setting and management is that people are conditioned to expect a difficult time. Or at least, that is how I find it with me. The new set of expectations that evolved in my mind conditioned me to expect the worse, to expect to be frustrated, to expect to get delayed, to simply expect a difficult time. The new set of expectations creeping up in my mind seemed to implant the idea that there was nothing that I could do to counter the difficulties that I was facing.
What I have observed, at least in my case, is that the best way to manage expectations (both pre-departure, and post-arrival expectations) is to ensure that the reason why I came to Mongolia to work for AIESEC is strong enough to overcome both small and big frustrations that come with living and working here.
During my stay in Singapore earlier this year, I met Alex, a good friend and colleague of mine when I was working for AIESEC Singapore. Around the time that I met Alex, I was considering applying for AIESEC national roles in various countries. It was all fun and good, discussing all the possibilities, until Alex asked the most annoying question:
To be frank, I could not answer the question, which is why I got so annoyed, both at him, and at the fact that I simply had no straightforward answer to provide. So, for a good four weeks, I suspended the idea of applying for AIESEC national positions until I figured out the reason why I wanted such a role with AIESEC so badly.
At the end of that four week period, I came up with my reasons why:
- I want to have a unique and memorable team experience. I want to be able to work with a dedicated and passionate group of people towards the goal of developing both ourselves, and the AIESEC organization in the country that we are in.
- I want this experience to help me in my career in the future, and I want it to serve as a reference point for me when I make critical decisions as a manager or a leader.
- I want to live and work in a country that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to go to, if it were not for AIESEC.
Despite the day-to-day challenges of the role, and the lifestyle changes that I had to make as a result of being an unpaid volunteer, I found that my reasons why have been more than sufficient in keeping me motivated, and in driving me to push on regardless of the difficulties I face, challenge expectations that have developed in my mind the last few weeks, and when possible, change the difficult circumstances that I find myself in occasionally to suit my ends better.
I have an awesome team that has an awesome drive to achieve an awesome vision. I know that what I am doing now will help me in the long run. And at the end of the day, I am also fulfilling my dream of living in another country working for AIESEC. Strong enough reasons for me to come to Mongolia and to keep me here for a year.