With the new year here, it’s a natural time to reflect on how you are doing personally and professionally and set resolutions for self-improvement in 2019.
It’s also a time to appreciate the new relationships you’ve formed through your connection to service – students, parents and teachers; teammates, Impact Managers and staff members; alumni, board members and AmeriCorps champions.
What if those same relationships–and seeking out opportunities to build new ones—were the key to unlocking potential for personal growth, perspective building and continuous learning that advances career development?
According to a survey by Performance-Based Hiring Learning Systems, 85% of respondents found their most recent job via networking. As the first full class of Generation Z to enter the workforce, 2018 grads are focusing on face-to-face communication to land jobs.
No matter if you are currently in school contemplating a year of service, weighing post-service options, or recently graduated from AmeriCorps and ready to make a job change, spending time assessing the many different kinds of relationships within your network can be invaluable to guiding and discovering your next career opportunity.
Here are some tips to leverage your network in advance of anticipated career transitions or help set resolutions to strengthen relationships in the New Year:
Share career curiosities with staff members, teachers and City Year sponsors and champions connected to your current company or school.
Networking is often associated with schmoozing at conferences and socials to meet new people with the hopes of making a contact that might be helpful in the future. However, your best connections can be right inside your company or on-campus and the guests and champions they invite to connect with their workforce or student body. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your current surroundings that you might overlook staff members and faculty who are already invested in your success. Senior staff members like Executive Directors and Program Directors are often knowledgeable about different sectors and well-connected to the local community. Board members and external champions who support and engage with organizations and universities can also offer invaluable perspective.
Hannah Oshin, City Year Washington, DC ’12
Product Marketing Manager at Lifetime Brands
“The former Executive Director of City Year Washington, DC, Jeff Franco, was pivotal in helping me transition from service to my career. He took the time to meet with me several times during my service year and connected me with a campaign I found and was passionate about called A Billion Plus Change. As a result of that connection, I was immediately hired after my graduation and worked at an organization in DC called Points of Light which led to a full-time position at a nonprofit in Seattle, which opened the door to multiple jobs that allowed me to write (my passion) for work. Without Jeff, I don’t think I would’ve gotten to where I am today.”
Laura Lee, City Year Los Angeles ’11
City Year Los Angeles Staff 2011-2014, 2015-2016
HR Business Associate, General Mills
“Corporate Civic Engagement Days and other community events convened by City Year provide excellent opportunities to network with people in the companies and industries you may want to work for post-City Year. These events are a great way to have natural conversations with people in roles you might want to pursue and can get real insight into what a future career could look like. Honestly, chatting with folks at City Year civic engagement events is how I learned I wanted to go into HR and pursue my MBA. To this day, even at General Mills, I find people who have connections to City Year all the time—it’s often my go-to conversation starter and a really easy way to connect with someone. Make sure you can talk about your service experience in a genuine and succinct way when people ask you to tell them about yourself. If you feel confident and comfortable, there's no telling where the conversation could go and what doors it could lead to.”
Talk with people at your current organization about opportunities to grow in a different role.
According to NBC News, 75% of employees under 34 believe job-hopping could benefit their careers. However, before jumping ship, first consider the ship you are on and then explore if there is a more advantageous spot on the ship to help you and your company chart new waters. Before you joined your current organization, there was likely something about its mission and values that initially drew you to apply and an optimism that you could accomplish big things—trust that instinct was right.
Laura Furlong, City Year Boston ’02, City Year Los Angeles ’07
City Year Los Angeles Staff 2007-2011
Chief of Staff, Citizens of the World Charter Schools
“The most valuable lesson that I have learned is to say yes to new projects (within reason), even if they don’t fit squarely within your job description. This will give you an opportunity to try out new functions, develop new skills and to show co-workers and your manager your range of expertise, while also continuing to excel within your current role. If there aren’t a lot of these opportunities available directly to you, go after them: be upfront with your manager when you’re looking for stretch projects—special projects or opportunities that require skills or experiences just out of your comfort zone. By showing that you’re interested in growing and developing within the organization, leadership will, in turn, invest in you. When you’re ready for a new role, don’t always think that every move needs to be a move up. Sometimes a lateral move—either within the same organization or to a new organization—will give you a new set of skills and experiences that will make you a much stronger candidate for a future leadership role.”
Ready for the next cool career opportunity but you have no idea what that is? Identify 3-5 alumni who have followed a path of interest and request a 20- to 30-minute informational interview.
Sometimes the best way to navigate an unknown transition and ease anxieties associated with not knowing what’s next is to gain insights from people who have followed a path of interest or curiosity – it’s re-energizing on a personal level and builds up your professional network at the same time. A good place to start is joining LinkedIn groups through your college or service organizations (the City Year Alumni Association has more than 4,700 members and AmeriCorps Alums has more than 20,000). Looking for tips on using LinkedIn’s search functionality and recommendations for reaching out to alumni? Check out our LinkedIn Guide for City Year AmeriCorps Members and Alumni. An even better idea to generate leads? Reach out to the Alumni & Career Services staff at your college or service organization, or your old high school guidance counselor and schedule a visit or 30-minute phone call.
Career Services Perspective:
Sean McDevitt, City Year Boston ’02
City Year Headquarters Staff 2003-present
Senior Director, Leadership After City Year
“Alumni and Career Services staff can be effective yet often over-looked resources in a job search. This group loves learning about their past and present students’ or AmeriCorps members’ career interests including listening to curiosities that are just forming and facilitating introductions to alumni who can offer perspective. You show a level of vulnerability when you ask for help; however, the reward for opening yourself up is often rallying and recruiting champions to be in your corner now and in the future.”
Don’t forget about the close relationships you’ve built with your peers – fellow AmeriCorps Members and people you went to school with.
They know you best and will be your biggest champions throughout your life, professionally and personally.
Jules Panighetti, City Year New Hampshire ’05, ‘06
Certified Behavior Technician at Calhoun Consulting
“During City Year New Hampshire’s 15th Year anniversary Opening Day, I ran into Mike Wallach ’05, ‘06 [who served with me in NH]. We caught up briefly and Mike told me about the work he was doing with kids as a behavior analyst in Seattle. A year later, I sought out Mike’s advice while fostering to adopt and the information he shared was so helpful and greatly improved our relationship and ability to assist with his behavioral needs. Fast forward several years to 2016. I reconnected again with Mike during a period of career transition and he invited me to come check out his business and the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Within a week of returning home, I applied to a new Master’s program and began preparing myself for a move out west. Four months later, my husband and I took a leap of faith and moved 2,500 miles across country, and I began working for Mike as a behavior technician. This August, I graduated with my Master's in Applied Behavior Analysis and currently work as the Assistant Program Director at a school for children with special needs. I still work with Mike part-time and love spending time with his family. My advice is to stay connected to the people you served with and keep people updated on your life. You never know what opportunities await you. Sometimes, your dream career is one question away from being a reality.”
David DeMarkis, City Year Milwaukee ’13
Doctoral Intern, Texas Association of School Administrators
“The year after I served, I applied to Vanderbilt University to pursue grad school. Four out of my five recommendations came from alumni I served with. The average age of recommenders was 23-years-old. I didn’t even need a professor for a recommendation when I had a passionate group of City Year colleagues in my corner. They helped change my life and helped me get to the next step in my career. It really embodied City Year's belief in the power of young people.”