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Congrats, New College Grad! Now What?

Insights & Ideas Team •  April 14, 2016 | Business and Careers, Home and Family

When Veena Pathiparampil graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Political Economy in 2009, teaching was not on her radar. After changing her major five times, she chose an interdisciplinary major that would provide good life skills and a solid foundation for grad school—once she had the funds and a solid plan for pursuing her master’s degree. It was the middle of the Great Recession and her job options were limited.

Like many Millennials, Pathiparampil wanted a career that would give back to society, but she wasn’t sure exactly what that would be. A national service program seemed like a good place to find out, so she applied for Teach for America (TFA).

Founded in 1990, TFA recruits and develops college graduates for two-year commitments to teach in high-need schools. The organization has 8,600 corps members teaching in 52 urban and rural regions in the U.S. and more than 42,000 alumni working to support educational opportunities for kids living in poverty.

Assigned to the Houston area, Pathiparampil spent her two-year commitment teaching ninth-grade algebra to low-income and at-risk students. Once her commitment was fulfilled, she was eligible for fellowships and scholarships for grad school as a TFA alumna. She ultimately chose a master of public administration degree at Syracuse University.

Today, Pathiparampil is vice principal of KIPP Chicago, a Knowledge Is Power Program college preparatory school that she helped found on Chicago’s south side. Teach for America was a last-minute decision, but the program revealed a passion for education and launched her on a successful new trajectory—all because the hiring market was bleak when she graduated.

Millennials Continue to Face Employment Challenges

The hiring outlook is considerably brighter for the class of 2016, with employers planning to hire 11 percent more college graduates than last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Despite the improved numbers, nearly a quarter of new grads will be without jobs this May. They’re most likely to be those who majored in the humanities or social sciences. What options do they have to find jobs that will build their résumés and repay their loans?

Fortunately, programs such as TFA and others match new college grads with training and jobs in areas that desperately need both their education and enthusiasm. Those opportunities include:

AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps has been referred to as the “American Peace Corps.” Founded in 1994, AmeriCorps is actually a network of local, state and national service programs that meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health and homeland security. Better-known programs include City Year and VISTA.

Some programs require a bachelor’s degree or special skills and experience, but all programs require that members be between 18 and 24 years old. During the 10- to 12-month commitment, members receive a modest living allowance and can often defer their student loans. After their service, members receive an AmeriCorps Education Award, which can apply to college tuition or can be used to repay certain student loans.

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Jesuit Volunteer Corps: Graduates of the many Jesuit universities in the U.S. are not the only ones who are eligible for Jesuit Volunteer Corps. The program is looking for applicants between the ages of 21 and 35 with a college degree or complementary work experience.

Jesuit volunteers (JVs) are currently working in 37 U.S. cities and six foreign countries. The JVC pays for housing, utilities, food, transportation, health insurance and a small personal stipend. Serving as a JV may also qualify you for deferral of your student loans. The JVC website warns applicants that being a JV is not for those who are looking solely for something to pad their résumé and defer loans. They are looking for applicants who are committed to community, social justice, simple living and spirituality.

Pathways/USAJobs: While not a service program per se, the Pathways program helps students and recent graduates find careers with the federal government. Their website lets you search for jobs by college major, with selections from anthropology to zoology. The Recent Graduates Program is for college graduates and veterans who are looking for a career development program that offers training and mentorship. To be eligible, applicants must apply within two years of graduation or within six years if they’ve been on active duty in the military.

Transitioning into a Career

Employers of National Service—a program that links national service program alumni with employers—was formed in late 2014 for the twentieth anniversary of AmeriCorps. The program encourages employers from private, public and nonprofit sectors to hire AmeriCorps and Peace Corps alumni, who have proven themselves to be dedicated, highly qualified and mission oriented. National service alumni, in turn, have additional opportunities to apply their skills in the workplace.

Pathiparampil agrees that her service experience was crucial in developing skills that are valuable in her current job, including what she refers to as “resilience and grit.” “It set the foundation for how I lead and how I approach different situations. I got better at decision making because teachers make about 1,500 decisions a day.”

Still, a national service stint has to be about more than the résumé you’re building. If you begin with a desire to do something good for your community, national service provides a structure for satisfying those altruistic instincts.

There will be times you feel overwhelmed and underprepared. “Have an open mindset, a strong heart and a willingness to never give up,” Pathiparampil adds. “Make sure you’re ready for a really challenging experience, and you’ll build a lot of character during that time.”


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