The Many Hats of a VISTA

by Andre Eggert, Print Communications Specialist at HIRED

I have always had a keen interest in writing and communication. Even before I could read, I have memories of dictating text to a teacher who dutifully helped me craft my epic prose. So it was obvious, perhaps, that I would take up journalism as my major in college. The idea of exposing corruption and shining a light on the needs of the ignored felt like a higher calling (and trust me, seeing your name on the byline of a story is thrilling, no matter how small the publication).

But as I watched my fellow journalism majors graduate college in the years before me, I saw an overwhelming glut of unemployment. The lucky ones got offers from small newspapers in farm towns far away from friends and family, only to bounce to another small paper a short time later. I began to realize that the trajectory I was on was not necessarily where I wanted to be. Journalism is about telling stories that inform and inspire. So was there a way I could do that while making real, lasting change in the Twin Cities community I loved so dear? It turns out the answer is yes.

I committed myself to a year of service through the AmeriCorps VISTA program as a communications and outreach specialist at HIRED, a leading Twin Cities nonprofit that helps reduce disparities in the region through workforce development. At HIRED, I have been able to help craft the communication plans for the Sector Initiatives department, work on grant proposals, pitch stories to the press, and help market upcoming trainings through print and online channels. All of this helps HIRED continue and improve on the great work it does. Few entry-level positions would afford me such a range of projects or give me any power as I have had as a VISTA member, and that has been  great for exposing me to new experiences and giving my resume the necessary boost to make me a more attractive employee in the future.

At a nonprofit, everyone wears many hats, and that’s no different for me as a VISTA member. I have been able to connect with many people within HIRED who have provided some of my best work opportunities during my year of service. It’s this sort of networking—both inside and outside of my organization—that is probably my favorite part of the experience this year.

My term as a VISTA has been invaluable in helping me determine what I want to do in the future. I have shaped my upcoming job search around positions that will allow me to work internally or alongside the nonprofit community to help make the Twin Cities a more fair and equitable place. It’s broken down barriers to give me a window into how a nonprofit functions and how I can best be a change agent in a resource-strapped environment. For educating me on the issues surrounding disparities in our region and empowering me to make a difference, I know I will never forget my year of service.