Written by Andrea Caldwell, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Jefferson Memorial Forest
Last month I had the opportunity to attend our AmeriCorps VISTA In-Service Training in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the time, I was not 100% physically feeling well but I did not want to miss out on this training event – it was more important that my mental state was at 100% to absorb the information and I could work around my physical limitations. Now, for the record, I am not as young as most of you are, I am a proud grandmother to my five-year-old grandson.
At training, we were offered six breakout sessions: Creating and Maintaining Successful Partnerships as a VISTA, Planning and Leading Effective Meetings, Recruiting and Placing Volunteers, Translating VISTA Service to Your Resume and Career, Serve and Thrive: Building Resilience as a VISTA, and Using Resource Development to Bolster Your Work. Although I did not attend the session on Translating VISTA Service to Your Resume and Career during our in-service training, I have worked in corporate reviewing resumes. Also, before I left for training, we had a representative come speak with our cohort at Americana about building your resume. In addition, when I returned, we were presented with another representative about lessons in writing a resume which is why I chose this topic.
Of course, each of the presenters had their own unique style of teaching to appeal to a variety of personalities in the audience. Even at my age, I can still learn a thing or two. I am always searching on Google about the latest business trends, topics, food, senior discounts, where to travel on a budget and the cheapest place to live after you retire, etc. I thought that I knew how to save and spend on a budget until I started going to our cohort meetings and listening to other AmeriCorps VISTAs talk about how they manage month to month on their stipends. It has forced me to reevaluate my priorities and tighten the belt on my budget a little more and I am thankful for that.
So, in return I would like to share some additional information that I received from the AmeriCorps VISTA In-Service Training Manual about Translating VISTA Service to Your Resume and Career. What is a VISTA? “AmeriCorps VISTA members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency.” Do you know what VISTA stands for? “Volunteers in Service to America.” Do you hear the importance of your work even before it starts? Wow! Why is it unique? “VISTAs specifically work on projects that create or expand programs supporting low-income communities.” What is your project? “Example, for my project, I created a new community garden program for Boys and Girls Club which increased access to healthy food for under-served students.”
I would like to suggest that you review your VAD “VISTA Assignment Description” and compare it with your actual work on paper. Ask yourself what were the needs when I started? What steps did I take to fulfill those needs? Why did I choose to take those steps versus something else? Who was impacted the most by me implementing these steps? Can this information be documented or reported? How is this program going to be sustainable after I leave? Did I leave instructions for the next VISTA to step in and pick up where I left off?
I hope that by reading the examples above and writing down your own personal experiences, you become more comfortable with translating your service to your resume. Please don’t be too critical of yourself, life is just beginning and you have already positioned yourself to be ahead of the game. There are many resume coaches out there, take what you can use from each one and leave the rest for someone else. On the other hand, there is only one of you and you are the best at telling your own unique story. Good luck and go into your resume writing and interview with confidence in yourself.
Preparing for Life After AmeriCorps
Lift After AmeriCorps VISTA Guide
Sample Digital Portfolio
Non-Competitive Eligibility for VISTAs
Employers of National Service
Ace Your Next Interview