This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the Young Nonprofit Professionals Annual Spring Conference in Washington DC with VMC and fellow AmeriCorps member, Leah. It was fantastic to me to actually be able to converse with individuals in my field who were interested in the same things that I was.
I had the opportunity to sit in on several very informative sessions. The one session that stuck with me the most was titled Positive Psychology & Your Career. In this session, the speakers touched on career planning based on needs and wants. In this economy, it’s so easy to accept any position in order to be employed. Less and less people tend to think of their career choices in terms of what they want and need to remain successful and happy, but rather they think in terms of what they need in order to keep the bills paid.
The first suggestion that they made is to take the time to think about what it is that you would want out of a job. What skills would you like to contribute to a position? What skills would you like to learn from a position? Making a list of all the roles and responsibilities that you want out of a position and virtually crafting your own position description is the starting point for anyone looking to get a career doing something that they love.
The next topic the speakers discussed was the feeling that one gets when they are doing their calling or passion. The right balance of challenge, opportunity, and success makes for a perfect recipe for fulfillment in any career.
This got me thinking about the reason that people join AmeriCorps. As I stated above, this economy is not ripe with job opportunities. Many people are turning to AmeriCorps as a means of temporary employment. What many people don’t realize is that AmeriCorps is not a job or a position, but a year of service. In other words, individuals give one year of their time to the service sector. They are paid a minimal stipend and offered minimal health benefits. As a result of that service, members will have contributed to the productivity of countless nonprofit organizations throughout the nation! If one is merely joining just to have employment in rough times, it may cloud his or her ability to actually see the benefit of his or her work.
Another item that the speakers addressed during the session was work-life balance. This is normally so hard to achieve. They mentioned the usual time management and exercise. The point they stressed is that we should make professional decisions based on our priorities. If it’s important for us to make a lot of money, than we should know that that kind of lifestyle requires lots of hours behind a desk. If working all the time is not how you envision spending your life’s career, this choice may not be the best option.
As AmeriCorps members, it is important to start thinking strategically not only about the kinds of careers that we want but also about the ways that we want our careers to shape our lifestyles. It all boils down to answering the question: do we want to work to live or live to work?
I’m interested in learning more about why people join or are considering joining AmeriCorps. Is it because you want to switch careers and transition to the nonprofit sector? Is it because you’re looking to do something meaningful as a retired individual? Are you looking to gain professional development? What are your thoughts on the job search after the service year?