As a soon-to-be-graduate, you have been weighing your options about how to spend your first year after graduation. One option that you may be considering is a year (or two) of service. I spent two years after college working for AmeriCorps as a college advisor through their College Advising Corps program. There are many benefits to a year of service that you want to consider. Today, I want to share a few pieces of advice to help you optimize your time.
Tips for making the most out of post-graduate service:
- Become familiar with your content area
One of the advantages of a year of service is that you can choose from a variety of content areas that range from education, to the environment, to elder care. Even if you do not see yourself remaining in your content area in your professional career, becoming knowledgeable during your time will help you feel more confident in the work you do. It will also allow you to better articulate your experience when you talk about it in future job interviews.
Networking can come in many forms, and it is one of the most significant factors in some people’s decisions to do service. Even if you feel bogged down by work, don’t forget that every person you meet could be a pathway to a potential opportunity in the future. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to folks on the site, ask questions, and collect contact information to follow up. Supervisors could become recommenders, site employees could have job connections, and your peers could offer support. Beyond the professional benefits, people you serve with could end up becoming future friends.
- Take advantage of learning opportunities
Many service programs offer ongoing training and professional development. Sometimes it can be frustrating to be pulled away from the work and asked to focus on yourself, but these moments will be important for your development. Engage fully. It can also be beneficial to seek out additional learning and training opportunities. They will improve your work and provide personal and professional benefits. Ask if your program has funds or connections to help you get more opportunities. Many of these have been moved online so they are now more accessible.
- Practice your elevator pitch
When you tell people that you are doing service, they will want to hear about it! Practicing how you describe your experiences will help you share them with your family and friends now, but will also help you when you are searching for your next job. Many employers are familiar with service years, but it is important to be able to articulate what made your experience special. What skills did you learn? What was your impact?
If you choose to commit time to service after college, there are many potential benefits. The best way to engage with those benefits is to be fully engaged with the work but remember that you will need a new position in a year or two. Best of luck!