During their term, corps members will look to staff of their service corps for training, coaching and guidance. They may also want to rely on their networks.
This post is for program staff of service corps. (Please send a link to staff in your network if they don’t already read the blog — thanks!)
Your own networks of colleagues, host agency contacts, board of directors, volunteers, funders, and others can play a valuable role in the lives of your corps members. Your own relationships can be helpful in meeting your program’s objectives, as well as expanding your corps members’s professional networks.
While meeting new professionals will give your corps members a leg up in their career transition post-term, recognize that relationship-building happens all year long. Your active support is necessary throughout the term—not just at the end, when career transition training is inevitable.
When possible, bring in alumni and community leaders to meet your corps members and see them at work. Consider the variety of ways you can connect your corps members with alumni and other community leaders:
- Early-term gathering introducing current corps members with alumni still in the area
- Panel discussions on grad school or professional paths featuring your colleagues with relevant experience
- Informal reception bringing your board together with current and former corps members
- Skill-building workshops facilitated by the experts in your network
- Community service projects, led by corps members, bringing together community leaders, alumni, and others
- Graduation event that allows corps members to mingle with the parents of other corps members and host agency staff
- Opportunities throughout the term for your corps members to connect with each other, and participants in other corps throughout the region
If your corps does not yet have an organized alumni group, consider establishing one (it can pay off financially, as you probably already know). If you do have a formal or informal alumni network, make sure your corps members know about it throughout the term of service. Some alumni programs have a structured mentoring program that match alums with current members—that is more challenging for smaller programs, but it is something to think about.
Share your knowledge of professional associations that corps members can connect with for the health of their projects and their own professional development, as well as for their career transition. If you have the time to make inroads to any of these groups yourself (i.e. setting up a discounted membership for national service participants), your corps members will thank you.
Continually seek new contacts for yourself, keeping in mind the breadth of needs of your own professional growth, your program, and your current and future corps members.
Develop ties to your local college career centers and look to career staff for support for your corps members seeking specific job search skills.