The following is a guest post from Patrice Beverly, VM’s Outreach Manager.
Over the past few months I have reviewed several applications for the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator program. Combing through applications, trying to choose ones that feel like a good fit for Volunteer Maryland takes time, and honestly I really enjoy this process. I have always said that the best part about my role on staff is that it is all about the possibility. The possibility of making a difference, engaging communities, and gaining skills is a pretty good trade off for the (granted) low stipend that AmeriCorps members incur. But what if an application does not present anything that gives the impression that s/he wants to do this? What if the impression I get from an application is that this is “better than nothing?” Is that an acceptable motivation? Nope, it sure isn’t.
Every day, we hear about the economy and the bleak landscape of employment opportunities. Given this knowledge, I also know that AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland are not always an applicant’s “Plan A.” Usually Plan A involves a direct line to what you studied in school or skills gained from the workplace. How does service fit into that? Often, it is the volunteering you do on the weekends, or as part of the benefits of working with a very socially- minded company; but service as a job? That was left to the “do-gooders” out there. But times have changed. Having plans B-F seems to be more the norm now, with the hope that Plan A is not completely lost.
So here is Volunteer Maryland’s predicament: applicants that are applying for everything and anything just to keep moving in this sluggish market. I know AmeriCorps is a great opportunity for someone to learn more, increase skills, and to do more for communities across the country, but this comes in exchange for work, real work. Building houses, teaching kids, promoting healthy lifestyles, managing volunteer programs is work, and it takes commitment to do that for very little monetary reward. Yet, AmeriCorps members do this every day. These are real problems, and they need people who bring their time and talents with them. AmeriCorps is not meant to be a filler, a settler, or an oh weller. It is meant for people who actively seek this kind of role. Even if this is your Plan B, you need to show me how you’re going to bring your A Game.
Although I receive a number of great applications from passionate people, I also receive applications from people who are not showing me their best effort. Application basics – capitalizations, spell check, formatting, resumes left out. I read motivation statements and can’t always tell why this individual wants to do be a part of our program. Sometimes it’s clear that the applicant has no real understanding of what we are asking or what our program does.
In college I took a weekend seminar on the job hunt. Granted this was 1983, and I am pretty sure my hair was spiked, and my collar was flipped, but I think the basics then are still relevant today. Your application, resume, and cover letter are your introduction to why someone should take the time to interview you. I know that some of the applications Volunteer Maryland receives are due to the state of the economy, but our mission remains most important, and my role is to find the best people to carry this out. Submitting an application that shows no thought or care pretty much means rejection from consideration; it is that simple. You could be a great member of our program, but I can’t tell if you don’t put forth the efforts in your application.
Plan B should not mean you are settling, but rather looking for different paths to move forward. It deserves the same time and care you bring to your Plan A. You have skills, talents, and motivations, so make sure your application supports that. AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland are looking for individuals who are professional, passionate, and not afraid of a challenge. Make sure you convey that. For those of you that do, I look forward to interviewing you!