GHCC AmeriCorps*VISTA leaders Tom Pfeifer and Allison Wilhite took some time to reflect on the recent Life After VISTA event that took place at City Hall on March 25th.
Despite unexpected snowy weather and challenging commutes from as far as Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, nothing could put a damper on the GHCC VISTA Cohort’s excitement as they arrived at Baltimore City Hall to learn about what “Life after VISTA” could hold for them. The afternoon event, co-hosted by GHCC, the Mayor’s Office, and Maryland/DC Campus Compact VISTA programs, kicked off with an alumni panel of former AmeriCorps members enthused to share about their career paths after service.
Two former GHCC-sponsored VISTAs, Jimmy Stuart (2010-11 cohort) and Priya Bhayana (2011-12 cohort), contributed to the alumni panel discussion by sharing how their service terms helped them land their current jobs. For example, Jimmy explained that it was because of the network he formed while serving that he was on Child First Authority’s radar. He stressed the value of holding informational interviews, stating to the group that, “VISTAs have all of these networks and opportunities at your finger tips… spend time with people you respect and whose work interests you.” Priya offered that it’s OK to explore opportunities to find the right fit. She used her education award to briefly attend graduate school before her current position as Director of the Bromo Arts and Market Center.
Also on the panel were Liz Matthews of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Rollin Johnson, Jr. of Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Concern (and former Peace Corps volunteer), and Holly Freishtat, Food Policy Director of the City Planning Department. “AmeriCorps really launched my professional career,” Holly explained. She later gave three key pieces of advice – conduct informational interviews to build a network now and for when you have a job, find a mentor or two, and constantly update your resume.
The panel was followed by a series of workshops including resume writing, job search, and how to maximize the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award ($5,550 toward educational costs or repaying student loans). Sarah Schulman (2012-13 GHCC cohort), who was hired by Maryland New Directions after her VISTA year with them, led the workshop on resume writing and encouraged that VISTAs highlight their transferable skills gained in service and to tailor resumes to their desired job. Liz Matthews, Outreach Specialist at CNCS, offered insights on the federal hiring process. The VISTAs were thrilled to learn that their year of service counts toward federal retirement! Furthermore, VISTAs receive a year of non-competitive eligibility status for federal employment, both big perks for those interested in a government career path. By the end of the afternoon, there was certainly a high degree of buzz among the VISTAs about the dynamic options available to them.
GHCC-sponsored AmeriCorps*VISTA members receive a solid foundation of skills they can use as a springboard for careers in government, non-profits, education, and much more. Are you interested in serving a year as a GHCC-Sponsored VISTA member? We’re recruiting now for our 2014-2015 cohort! Check out our website for information about how to apply and to see what positions are available.