Supporting Your Corps Members’s Career Transitions

Next week at NCVS, in addition to blogging & helping staff the Idealist Career Center on the Third Floor Exhibit Hall, I’ll be offering a workshop for service corps program directors and team leaders called “Incorporating Career Transitions Throughout the Term of Service.”

My workshop will take place first thing Wednesday morning as part of the NCVS events at the Moscone Center — and I am looking forward to seeing a room full of wide awake, rearing to go participants. I hope you can join us!

The idea behind the workshop is that preparing corps members for their career transition out of your program benefits both your program and the members themselves. With this workshop, participants can explore the components of an effective career transitions support strategy, and share effective practices with each other and me.

Because I learned how to train people as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China (where I taught English using a lot of activities and small groups that both emphasized giving my students a chance to speak) the workshop will be very much a time to hear my ideas and tips, but also to learn from each other.

What I’ve come to learn through the training I’ve already done on career transitions is that program directors recognize that corps members join their service corps as a way to achieve professional goals, in addition to contributing meaningfully to the community. You want to offer your members support to assist with their transition to next steps, but find yourself balancing other, more pressing training needs of corps members; limited by time to devote to the topic; hampered by expansive distances that make getting together with corps members difficult; and juggling other program priorities.

As a result, “Life After AmeriCorps” topics come up near the very end of the term, after many opportunities have been lost for exploring career paths and taking full advantage of their service term. Meanwhile, corps members report feeling anxious about the next steps much earlier—half-way through their term and sometimes even sooner.

This workshop’s purpose is to highlight things that the members can do to prepare themselves for their transition throughout the term, while enhancing — not distracting from — their service experience. Then the conversation will turn to discovering ways that program directors can assist the members in the process.

Corps members can set themselves up for success during the service term by:

•    Discerning their next steps (through evaluation, reflection, and other specific exercises)
•    Building additional, strategic relationships and skills that put them closer to their goals
•    Documenting (or saving evidence of) their accomplishments
•    Learning the nuts and bolts of a transition — to school or work

Rather than waiting till the last month of the term to offer a resume workshop, program directors then can incorporate these broad topic areas into the current calendar of events for the year, and integrating them into communication tools the service program is already using like website, resource library, listserv, or one-on-one encounters with corps members.

The workshop’s handouts will focus on relevant, useful resources including training curricula (which I will email to participants following the event), ways to connect with local university career services offices, and an audit for participants to take stock of what they are already doing well and where they can find some improvements in career transitions support for their corps members.

Next week at NCVS we are also planning to launch a new, free book Service Corps to Social Impact Career – a Companion to the Idealist Guides to Nonprofit Careers. Intended for service corps folks of all ages and locations, the book will take a look at what corps members can do before, during, and after their service term to leverage their exeperiences for a successful career transition.

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