Search Healthcare.gov for Transitional Health Coverage When Your Term of Service Ends

Your transition to next steps just got ever so slightly easier with the launch of a new government site that demystifies the new health care law.

When your term of service ends, you’ll have many things to figure out including things like job search, maybe a move to a new place, and health insurance — and how to afford it all with little savings from your stipend.

At least one piece of the transition just got a little easier.

Healthcare.gov launched this past week, giving you a place to start when you are looking for public or private health insurance options in your community (click on the “Find Insurance Options” tab) — you can also use the site to help out clients of your service site.

When I wrote Service Corps to Social Impact Career last year, I struggled with a section on finding health coverage during the transition — and wished for a website like Healthcare.gov that was easy to use, localized, and allowed graduating service corps participants to search for their options.

On Healthcare.gov’s Insurance Options Finder, you answer a few questions about yourself, such as which state you live in, your reason for needing insurance, whether you have trouble affording health insurance, and your age range. (Note, you don’t have to create a login, or in any other way identify yourself, so there should be few if any privacy concerns in answering these questions.)

After clicking on your answers, the site offers several options for you to investigate, including a listing of health insurance plans available in your area. (Unfortunately price comparisons won’t be available till this October.)

In another section of the site you can see how your state is implementing the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (“to make health coverage available to you if you have been denied health insurance by private insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition”). So if you’re worried about getting insurance because of a condition that’s been diagnosed already, you may have reason to hope!

You can also learn more about the new health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), passed in March, including a chronology of when the different provisions will take affect, and an interactive timeline of “what changes when.” And you can read the “Patients’s Bill of Rights.”

Finally other sections focus on prevention of health problems, and a tool that lets you compare health care facilities in your area on a range of different criteria including patient surveys.

Have you tried using Healthcare.gov? How has it worked for you? Have you gotten help for you or a client of your organization through using the tools?

Career Tip: Timing Your Job Search and Supporting Yourself During the Transition

April To-DoIf you aim to move onto a salaried job after your service term ends, you may be facing some big logistical challenges — when do you start actively looking for your next job? If you don’t have something lined up when your term ends, how do you support yourself till you land that job?

When to Start Your Active Job Search

Regardless of your service corps, your term probably has a definite end date.  If that is the case, lining up a job can pose tricky questions, such as when do you start applying for jobs? And when, during the application process, do you let the hiring team know your availability limitations?

When to start your active job search—sending in applications—is a little fuzzy. The typical job search takes about six Continue reading

ProInspire Helps Business Professionals Transition to Nonprofit Careers

ProInspireNew fellowship program places business sector emigres in critical roles in nonprofits in the Washington, DC, area.

Launched during the worst economic climate in generations, ProInspire eases the path of business professionals to find careers that are more meaningful to them — while helping nonprofits recruit people with the hard financial and other skills crucial for their long-term sustainability.

With the application deadline just days away (April 8th) for its first group of Fellows, ProInspire hopes to infuse the nonprofit sector with people who are trained with financial and project-management skills common in the for-profit sector. And any influx of staff may help in the long run. The nonprofit sector is projected to need to recruit 640,000 executives in the coming years as the baby boomer generation begins to retire. Continue reading

Career Tip: Setting Yourself Up for Success!

In my workshops with corps members who are considering their future career transitions, I  first emphasize things they can do during their term to get ready for their next steps, whether it’s going back to school or taking on a job.

You do not have to wait till the very end of your term to gear up for “Life After…”. You can do several things now to help you prepare — things that enhance your performance in your service corps, and that may help you relax about the changes ahead.

1. Save material evidence of your service experience: numbers, photos and “artifacts” (writing samples, performance evaluations, thank-you notes to you, agendas of meetings or events you organized, etc.)

2. Discern your next steps! Take some time to figure out what you want to do. Also see the self assessment exercises in Chapter Three of the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers. The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers is a free, downloadable guide to the nuts and bolts of a career transition — and is applicable to any sector, though the focus in on nonprofits. Look for the companion guide for corps members coming this summer.

3. Once you know where you may be headed, figure out who is already there — and how they got there, how they like it, what they actually do.

Maintain good relationships with the people in your service community (partners at other organizations, for example) by striving to be a good resource for them. Build additional strategic networks through informational interviewing.

Ask people in your network where local jobs are posted in the fields you‘re interested in. Don’t forget that many nonprofits and government agencies  list their jobs only on their own sites. Idealist.org has job listings, too, is expanding to offer government job postings, and you can sign up for email alerts; other nonprofit-specific job sites you can check out here.

Learn how to talk about your service experience with the people in your new networks, and prepare to talk about it for the job interview. Also check out this podcast show featuring Meg Busse, co-author of the Idealist Guide.

4. Build new skills. Take advantage of projects you are working on at your host site to explore new roles you can play to get on-the-job practice with new skills. Let your site director know what your training needs are — for direction about where to get the support as well as to suggest possible topics for the existing, regular trainings you have with other members of your team.

Seek out other professional development workshops, or if you can, take a college course.

Check out The Resource Center for free online training, recorded webinars, and resources for your professional development. If you have specialized expertise, share it with others on your team.

5. Finally, beef up your job search skills, or learn as much as you can about grad school. For nuts and bolts of your job search — resume crafting, writing cover letters, prepping for your interview, negotiating a salary — please, please check out the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers which you can download for FREE.

Specific questions about your career transition? Please email us at TheNewService@idealist.org and we’ll try to answer them (without identifying you) on the blog.

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Why It’s Wrong to Assume that All Service Participants are Young

How branding national service as an opportunity only for young people does more harm to the movement than good.

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

While many service corps do have upper age limits — City Year, AmeriCorps*NCCC, Public Allies, and many other team-based programs — most programs do not have an upper age limit.

In fact, several programs specifically recruit professionalsExperience Corps, Atlas Corps, CUSO-VSO (the Canadian VSO), Volunteers for Prosperity, and United Nations Volunteers just to name a few. Others like Peace Corps and AmeriCorps*VISTA recruit almost entirely college graduates because of the skill required in carrying out service.

And yet when people speak of service they almost always describe it as an opportunity for young people to give back, receive scholarship money, develop leadership skills, and go an an adventure before settling down with a real job.

What difference does it make if most people think of national or international service as a pursuit for the young?

Here are some reasons:

Recruitment:

If we assume only young people will enlist in a citizen service corps, we won’t recruit new corps members as creatively Continue reading

Tips for Corps Staff: Beef up Your Own Network

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 picture-18valuable 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.

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Tips for Service Corps Parents

Parents tend to vary in their feelings when their child takes part in a term of service—from excited and supportive to suspicious and concerned. Wherever you fit on the spectrum, here are some words of wisdom to keep in mind during and after your child’s term.

You may feel that by volunteering full-time for a year, your child is floundering. The truth is, if you have raised a thoughtful child who is passionate about making the world a better place, they are going to need some time to figure out how and where to do that. Unlike so many career paths, the path to social change is relatively undefined.

For starters, a term of service experience offers many benefits to the community and to your child—for more on this, read Why Service? If your kid is thinking of signing up for a second term, read Why Service? a second time.

What your child needs from you:

Protect them from the Peer Pressure You May Feel

  • When your peers brag about the material achievements of their kids, don’t panic. Surely you can find other things to brag about—namely, what your child has single-handedly achieved to end poverty, educate youth, build community bridges, etc. Hopefully your child is keeping track, so you can ask them for the details. If you really want to show your kid you support them, brag about them in their presence. Let them blush and protest, but let them hear you.
  • Learn to explain their program in a sentence or two. It may help to say, “It’s similar to Peace Corps but…” because most people have heard of it, have some general understanding that Peace Corps is a legitimate volunteer organization, and that the people who participate are not to be mocked.


After the term ends, be patient and helpful about their career transition

  • First, recognize that when your kid’s term ends, they may be processing what they experienced and what they saw—they may need time to decompress emotionally. You can play an important role by listening to them and reflecting back what they say, non-judgmentally—no use getting in an argument about public policy at this point. They just want to be heard.
  • The first thing you may want to know is when they will get a “real” job. When speaking of their career transition, it’s so important to stay positive and helpful, and keep your own anxiety out of that discussion.
  • That all said, set clear boundaries if you have limits around what kind of financial support you are willing to offer them moving forward. If you are firm, you will be more patient with the choices they make because you know (and they know) that they will not be living off your income longer than you’d like.
  • If your child’s moving back in with you, establish clear rent payment expectations and also the time-frame for when they need to be out on their own again.

The best thing you can do, for yourself, is get educated about your kid’s program and about service in general. Talk to parents of other former corps members and find out how the term affected their lives and careers. Find out what financial and educational benefits your child’s program offers. If your kid has a work plan or position description, it may help to look at it, to realize the responsibilities they have been tackling.

Just like when they learned to tie a shoe or ride a bike, your child must now practice new life and career-transition skills. And just like then, they need you to be there to support them, cheer them on, and get so excited for them when they succeed.

Since my mom is reading this, I will add, thanks, Mom, for always being my cheerleader. I think I mostly turned out all right.