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.
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.