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Hello SCA AmeriCorps Alumni!
Now that your position is over, you may be wondering 'what's next?' You may be heading back to school, you might be starting a new job or internship, or you may currently be unsure of what is next; and that is okay! It is important after successfully completing a summer, or even a year, of national service to spend some time looking back on that service. Take some time and step back, reflect, and think about how national service has influenced your life and potentially many of your future decisions.
For many completing an SCA AmeriCorps internship can be a life changing experience that is worth reflecting on. Knowing the transformative power of the experience you just completed we felt it important to provide a few resources in order to help you apply all that you have learned toward future successes.
This exercise involves writing down answers to a few key questions that will help you process, understand, and take action on the valuable lessons you learned from your experience. I personally completed this exercise after spending 6 months hiking the Appalachian Trail back in 2001. To this very day I find personal direction by pulling out the journal containing my answers to ensure I am living the ethic that was learned from my journey.
Please take a moment to reflect and write down answers to the following questions:
What are the 3 main challenges I faced while in my internship?
What did I do to overcome these challenges or work towards overcoming them?
Looking back what would I have done differently in regards to these challenges?
What were my 3 main successes while in my internship?
What did I learn about myself from this experience?
How has my view of national service changed from this experience?
What takeaways do I have from this experience that I would like to apply to my life going forward?
Once you have written down answers I would recommend reading the questions and your answers to a close friend or family member and talking through what you have written. This is meant to be a simple and quick exercise that provides you the opportunity to share your experience with someone close to you and most importantly gives you a way to bring the lessons learned to the surface so you can apply them to your life as you move forward.
How do you talk about your experience to those who are not familiar with SCA and/or AmeriCorps?
It is important to be able to speak clearly and concisely to your experience when asked about it. The question may come up in an interview, or it may simply be a new acquaintance being curious about your experience, regardless it is important to articulate clearly and in a way that is meaningful to you the value of the experience.
Take a few minutes to write an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a way of capturing the experience in a brief paragraph to help others understand it. After hiking the Appalachian Trail I eventually took the time to write my own elevator speech after months of fumbling through the inevitable question about my experience. This exercise is well worth it, trust me. So please take a few moments and in 5 to 6 sentences explain your experience and its basic value to you. Here is an example from my own personal experience that you can use as a guide.
The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. Every year about 1,000 people set out to hike it from end to end and about 100-200 complete it. I completed the hike in about 6 months. It was a surprisingly social event as I met lots of interesting people while on the journey. The 2,000 mile hike provided me with ample opportunity to overcome mental, physical, and natural challenges that I was presented with. I learned a lot about the natural world and about myself. The two most important lessons I learned were that the joy is in the journey and not in the accomplishment and there are truly good people in the world.
I could say many things about the experience and in the end this was the problem I ran into in the first few months back from the hike. There can be so much to say about an intense life experience that it sometimes leaves you saying nothing or struggling for a quick way to say everything. Neither option is good. So create an elevator speech, practice it, and deliver it in an interview or when you see your family at the next holiday gathering.
How can you best represent your experience on a resume?
Most employers spend a mere 30 seconds reviewing a resume. This is why it is so important that your resume be Clear, Concise, and Compelling. These 30 seconds are your chance to make your case for being granted an interview.
Clear: break the resume into defined sections: education, experience, and key accomplishments
Concise: ensure you are making the key points and nothing more
Compelling: describe your most relevant and impressive accomplishments
Here are a few other helpful tips when it comes to resumes.
Keep it to one page in length as the hiring manager will be assessing your story and determining your fit very quickly.
Perfect grammar won’t get you a job but imperfect grammar will ensure you don’t get the chance to interview for one.
Have someone else proofread your resume and cover letter. What don’t they understand after a quick read of it? What stood out to them? Was it the areas you wanted to stand out?
Resume building takes time and is not easy. I guarantee you it will be time well spent though, especially if it provides you with the opportunity to interview for and land the job you are dreaming of.
Will my experience provide me greater opportunity when looking for employment?
An SCA AmeriCorps position is a great chance to network with future employers. Some members eventually get their first job at the site or through networking with a connection they made at the site. Another great resource available to AmeriCorps alums is the growing number of Employers of National Service. These are employers who have made a commitment to prioritizing candidates who have dedicated themselves to national service.
Employers of National Service: http://www.nationalservice.gov/special-initiatives/employers-national-service/search-network
Here is some more guidance for applying to Federal Agencies and USA Jobs:
The guides approach all sectors, Federal, Private, and Nonprofit career pathways in the outdoor/natural resource career space.
Are there educational benefits beyond the Segal Award for completing my service?
Yes, there most definitely are. Many graduate programs around the country have made the decision to become matching schools. They are committed to matching your Segal Award with a specific scholarship of the exact amount if you apply your award towards tuition at their institution. Most will match up to $5,500.
Institutions where Education Awards have been accepted: - https://www.nationalservice.gov/special-initiatives/communities/colleges-and-universities/amerischools
How can I find and connect with others who have gone through similar experiences?
Now that you have completed your service you are officially an Alum of SCA as well as AmeriCorps. SCA was established in 1957 so the organization has many alumni that you can connect with. AmeriCorps has a vast network of alumni of which there are approximately 1 million that have served in varying capacities all around the country.
There are two great ways to connect with others and share experiences. The first is SCA's social network platform, Conservation Nation. You probably have already joined, but if you haven’t I would recommend signing up and beginning to learn more about how you can connect with others. On Conservation Nation you can make connections with members who have served all around the country and learn more about what they are currently involved in. Also AmeriCorps has a very active Alumni network that is engaged in exchanging ideas around next steps after AmeriCorps.
SCA Alumni Network, Conservation Nation: http://conservation-nation.org/group/americorps
AmeriCorps Alumni Network: NationalService.gov has a new AmeriCorps Alumni Resources platform! The platform allows alumni to effectively access information and resources that are a high priority for both recent and not-so-recent alumni, such as using the Segal Education Award, finding a job, continuing civic engagement, and staying involved with AmeriCorps.
If you have any questions about these resources or the Segal Education Award, please contact The SCA's AmeriCorps staff at AmeriCorps@thesca.org