Ohio University Office of Career Services

Guest blogger: Americorps can be an excellent transition from college to the “Real World” by Alyse K

A guest blog post from Rachel Diskin, an AmeriCorps VISTA leader at Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks

I was a frightened college senior in the spring of 2008. On paper I looked great: I had a good GPA and numerous degree-related internships. Unfortunately, I had no job prospects and no real clue where I envisioned myself working! I knew 3 things: that I wanted to work with people, that I wanted to “make a difference”, and that I had no idea how to accomplish those goals.

I had heard of different national service programs like Teach for America or City Year, so I decided to look deeper into those programs. What I learned was that these programs fell under an umbrella organization called AmeriCorps. Upon doing a little research, I learned that there are 3 branches of AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps State and National (working directly with people in poverty), AmeriCorps VISTA (building sustainability in an organization through behind-the-scenes work) and AmeriCorps NCCC (a traveling service team that works together to accomplish a variety of different tasks). Of the three options, AmeriCorps VISTA seemed the most appealing to me. The position descriptions I found detailed tasks such as recruiting volunteers, grant writing, creating marketing plans and materials and fund raising. I knew these responsibilities would lead to great professional experience for my resume. After scouring the website I had some serious decisions to make…

  1. I would technically be a volunteer (VISTA stands for “Volunteers in Service to America”), but I’d receive a living allowance- That’s great! Spending a year volunteering looks great on a resume, and I wouldn’t go broke doing it!

  2. There are thousands of AmeriCorps positions located across the USA- and positions are opening all the time- I could apply for positions anywhere- from New York to Iowa to California- even Hawaii or Alaska!!

  3. My student loans would get put into forbearance- The longer I can go without worrying about paying off student loan debt, the better!

  4. After my year was complete, I could pick between two End-of-Service Awards: $5,350 towards student loans or further education or $1,500 cash- Wow! That’s a great deal! I’d love to get rid of about 1/5 of my student loan debt right off the bat!

  5. AmeriCorps is a great introduction to the Non-Profit world- Hmmm… one year of volunteering could help me decide what I’d like to do for a career and help me land a job!

It sounded great, so I decided to give it a try. To make a long story short, I eventually made it through the interview process and moved from Michigan to serve for a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Habitat for Humanity- Greater Columbus. All of the positive aspects that helped me make my decision held true. In fact, I enjoyed my position so much that I decided to begin a second year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. Being a VISTA member and then a VISTA Leader has provided me a number of excellent opportunities. I have built relationships with a variety of great organizations within the central Ohio area, and now feel well-prepared for almost any position within the non-profit sector. I’ve gained skills in grant writing, interpersonal relationships, and leadership. AmeriCorps VISTA proved to be an excellent transition piece from college life to the “real world” and helped me find my passion in life. If you’re interested in getting your feet wet in the working world with a “year of service” feel free to contact me at rdiskin@oashf.org or 614.221.4336. Or you can visit the AmeriCorps website at www.americorps.gov.

— Rachel Diskin, AmeriCorps VISTA leader

Making the Most of your Summer Break by Alyse K

While many of you cannot wait until summer to hang out with friends and enjoy the liberation that comes with the summer break, there are many activities that you can involve yourself with that will help you with your career and professional development this summer.

Summer Internships are one way to gain some full time experience in the field you are interested in working in. Usually you would want to start your summer internship search in the Fall or Winter Quarters but it is not too late to still find a summer internship. Visit Career Insider in Bobcat CareerLink and download the Vault Guide to Top Internships for useful information on finding a summer internship. You can also visit Yahoo! Yellow Pages and search for different companies in the region you are going to be in during the summer and inquire to see if they have anything available.

Volunteering is another way you can build up your transferable skills during the summer and make some connections with people you might not otherwise meet. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and you can even spend your summer volunteering abroad. You can also search locally for volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Match. There you can search for volunteer locations specific to where you will be spending your summer.

If you are thinking about going to graduate school, then summer is a great time to start your research on what academic programs you might be interested in and work on the requirements for those programs. If you need to take a standardized test for an academic program you can enroll in a preparation class for that exam during the summer. You can also visit the schools that you are interested in applying to and gain a better idea of what the campus environment is like.

Summer school is also a viable option for improving your transferable skills during the summer. Remember that you obtain transferable skills even in the classes you take, so if you are looking to acquire a new skill, learn a new language, or just enroll in something fun; summer school is a great opportunity to meet new people and explore what you think you are interested in.

While summer is a great time to relax, hang out, and distress from a year from school, remember not to let that time go to waste because there are plenty of activities that you can partake in that will improve your transferable skills and improve your marketability as you search for a job in the future.

—Tommy Raimondi, Spring Practicum Student

5 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Land a Job by Alyse K

  • Gaining New Skills: Volunteering is a great way to acquire experience that your past jobs or internships did not provide.  Examples could be: Organizing a fundraiser to gain project management skills or coordinating a project for leadership and management skills.
  • Make Networking Contacts: You never know who you might meet while volunteering.  In fact, almost 43% of volunteers have at least a bachelor’s degree—so there is a good chance you will meet a professional while volunteering.  If you volunteer at places related to your target career, you may meet people who are working in jobs similar to the one you want.
  • Emphasize your ambition: Volunteering shows you have a sense of civic responsibility and that you have a charitable side.  Employers are looking for future employees that have passion and involvement with the community.
  • Add New Experience: Be sure to include your responsibilities on your résumé.  Mention duties, accomplishments, results, and awards just as you would for employment.  Be sure to include the organization name and dates.
  • Gain Self-worth and Confidence- Volunteering can help you impact the lives of others.  There are opportunities to tutor, plan events, coordinate programs, etc.  Volunteering will give you the feeling that you have made your community a little better.

Information retrieved from 5 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Get a Job on Yahoo HotJobs, By Amy Neumann