When Veena Pathiparampil graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Political Economy in 2009, teaching was not on her radar. 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, 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.

Pathiparampil spent two years teaching ninth-grade algebra to low-income and at-risk students in the Houston area. Once her commitment was fulfilled, she was eligible for fellowships and scholarships for grad school. She 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.

The hiring outlook is considerably brighter for the class of 2016, with employers planning to hire 11 percent more college graduates than in 2015, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Despite the improved numbers, nearly a quarter of new grads were without jobs in 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 resumes 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:

Make sure you’re ready for a really challenging experience and you’ll build a lot of character.


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 meets community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health and homeland security. Better-known programs include City Year and VISTA.

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.


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. According to the JVC website, they are looking for applicants who are committed to community, social justice, simple living and spirituality.


While not a service program per se, the Pathways program helps students and recent graduates find careers with the federal government, guiding individuals to 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.

A national service stint has to be about more than the resume you’re building. Begin with a desire to do something good for your community; national service provides a structure for satisfying those altruistic instincts.

“Make sure you’re ready for a really challenging experience,” says Pathiparampil, “and you’ll build a lot of character during that time.”

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