by Patrick Mitchell, Employment Resource Developer at Project for Pride in Living
Graduating with a liberal arts degree can be both invigorating and daunting because you’re not locked into one career path. During my collegiate career I experienced much more of the latter. I felt like I needed a strict plan and by not having one I was destined to float through life. The high cost of a four year degree only augments this anxiety. While going to college and stressing out over what I wanted to do with the rest of my life I held a few different full time jobs to relieve the financial burden. However I did not seek out the jobs that paid the most, or allowed me to work the most flexible hours. I always migrated to jobs that involved helping others in need. After I graduated I still had no plan but falling back to the kind of work I enjoyed the most I decided on doing a year of AmeriCorps. It seemed like a good way to get introduced to the Twin Cities and not the least productive way to postpone the rest of my life career plans.
I was drawn to my AmeriCorps VISTA position at Project for Pride in Living this past year because I was intrigued by the variety of the job tasks. Some of my favorite parts of my AmeriCorps experience this past year have been the professional development resources, collaborating with other non-profits, and being able to witness the impact that capacity building work has on participants. Part of being an AmeriCorps member means trainings, webinars, events, conferences, banquets, brown bags, and workshops. I have grown to enjoy this part of my year; these sorts of learning opportunities have transferred into a productive hobby for me. I have been pleasantly surprised at how open my site is to collaborating with other organizations. I identified other organizations that provide services that can further assist our participants after graduation and successfully lobbied to include them in our class as possible resources for moving forward. Emphasizing careers over jobs, we have embraced other non-profits that offer trainings we do not; insuring that we are providing our participants with the best available opportunities and resources. The success stories have been by far the most rewarding part of my VISTA year. I’ve done some intake interviews so the success stories are especially powerful when thinking back to where they were before graduating our program.
While I still don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life, my VISTA year has helped me realize that I’ve had a plan all along. Find employment that has a meaningful impact on the lives of others, and prioritize what I’m doing over how much I’m getting paid to do it. During my VISTA year I have gained the confidence to embrace this plan and will continue to pursue the kind of work experiences that allow me to use my strengths and grow as a professional; not worrying about a strict career plan. My PSEI VISTA experience has exceeded my expectations and has turned out to be the perfect career step and experience for me. I feel lucky to be part of such a progressive initiative.