Invest in Yourself: A Year of Development in VISTA

By April 29, 2015Foundation Blog

By Tyler Hubler Workforce Access and Diversity Specialist, Summit Academy OIC

As you weigh the option of embarking upon a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member it is important to consider how you want to develop as a professional over the course of the next year. Do you want to build new relationships in the non-profit, philanthropic, and government sectors? Are you seeking a position that allows for continuous development of your professional skills? If your answer to these questions is yes, then membership as a VISTA in the Phillips Sectoral Employment Initiative (PSEI) could be right for you!

A core component and benefit of the Phillips VISTA cohort are the biweekly meetings that we attend as members. These trainings cover a wide variety of topics from non-profit marketing to intercultural competency and they include career panels that draw on the insightful experiences of both new and veteran professionals in the non-profit sector. Most other AmeriCorps programs- and for that matter non-profit employers- cannot afford to provide the level of training and support throughout a service year or year of work that we receive as Phillips VISTAs through the generosity of the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. It has been insightful for my work to learn from a diverse list of speakers about the field of workforce development, including the Commissioner of the Department of Human Rights, grassroots organizers, and state government and social service organization leaders. And if there are topics that our trainings don’t cover that interest you, you can take advantage of the $400 stipend each organization in the Phillips cohort is required to allocate to their VISTA to attend conferences, take classes, or attend workshops to grow as a professional.

One of the skills that I was most interested in developing this year through Phillips training is grant writing. Recently, Stephanie Jacobs, Program Director at the Nonprofits Assistance Fund, came and presented a workshop on grant writing to our cohort. As she reminded us at the beginning of our session, “no one goes to school for grant writing,” meaning not only is it a skill that takes time to develop it also is typically picked up once you are already working in a professional setting. Jacobs, who teaches a course on grant writing as an adjunct faculty member at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, led us through an interactive and engaging session centered on the core components of successful grants. After I had the opportunity to analyze a real grant proposal and practice writing a sample Letter of Inquiry (the first stage of a grant application) for our own organizations, I felt much more confident in my ability to work on grant proposals in the future. Even if there are limited opportunities for me to take on grant writing in the remainder of my  VISTA year, I look forward to taking this skill to the next organization in my career.