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Three ways AmeriCorps service can propel your higher ed career

College Possible AmeriCorps coach bends down, pointing to a laptop sitting on a desk between two students.

Nearly 6.5 percent of all college graduates in the United States receive a degree in education. In fact, education is one of the most sought-after disciplines in master’s degree programs across the country, garnering 18 percent of all master’s candidates. With roughly 258,000 education-degree earners graduating yearly, it’s imperative to stand out in a stack of resumes when applying for your first job in higher education.

The University of Denver reports that there are eight major competencies employers are screening for, according to its extensive research in collaboration with the National Association for Colleges & Employers. Included in those competencies are leadership, career and self-development, and equity and inclusion, all skills championed during an AmeriCorps service year with College Possible. Marisa, an alumna coach, shared three ways her year as a college success coach in Omaha helped her sharpen these skills and land a job as director of student leadership and inclusive programming at College of Saint Mary.

1. Expand your professional network through AmeriCorps

As a College Possible Catalyze coach or college success coach, you’ll help enrolled university students stay on track through degree completion, including focused attention on helping students persist from their first to second year of college. One of the many ways coaches support students to and through graduation is by connecting them to faculty who can offer extra assistance, and directing them to campus and community resources like academic advisors, the financial aid office, or even mental health support. Catalyze coaches are typically alumni of the university campus in which they are placed, and thereby tend to develop a particularly deep connection with the university systems, staff and faculty. These connections often open doors into higher education career pathways. In fact, in the last five years alone, 20 of our Catalyze coaches have been hired by universities, including 10 direct hires into our Catalyze partner universities.

These on-campus connections also ring true for college success coaches placed at a College Possible regional site such as St. Paul, Minnesota or Portland, Oregon. Coaches typically have an office at partner campuses, usually within the academic success office, offering a unique opportunity to connect with faculty members who work in or frequent the facility. “I was interacting with my other fellow AmeriCorps members and people outside of College Possible that they brought in to talk with us coaches regularly. I was also interacting with national leadership and students,” said Marisa. “Networking is super simple because it’s already built into service during your time at College Possible.”

In addition to working side-by-side with university faculty, coaches also gain membership to the Employers of National Service, an organization that connects AmeriCorps alumni to more than 600 employers from the private, public and nonprofit sectors, as well as the Schools of National Service.

2. Develop sought-after skills that university leaders prioritize

University hiring managers seek out College Possible coaches because of the transferable experience needed on their campus. From diversity, equity and inclusion training, to leadership skills and relationship building, your service year will be a transformative period of hands-on experience in higher education.

“Monday through Thursday you’re supporting direct service of students, but Fridays are dedicated to your professional development,” said Marisa. “Relationship building was one of the most important skills I learned from College Possible. Learning to navigate working with students, and how to meet students where they’re at—truly helping them figure out their goals instead of telling them what to do—it’s one of the most important things I learned during my service term,” she continued.

All students enrolled in College Possible come from underinvested communities. In addition to gaining first-hand experience working with diverse and underrepresented student populations, coaches participate in a myriad of professional development opportunities in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics, an experience many universities are searching for in a job candidate. “One of the biggest takeaways I learned from our DEI training at College Possible was to find balance between celebrating our differences and cultures, and honoring the issues and problems these students face,” said Marisa. “To always focus on the issues can be very traumatizing for these underrepresented groups, and it’s important to make space for joy, love, and expression of culture in a positive way, especially in higher ed institutions.”

3. Receive unique career transition support from national leadership

Your year of service as a college coach is just one part of your career journey. That’s why College Possible is committed to helping you hone the skills needed to successfully transition from service into your career. “I actually found my next job toward the end of my service term with College Possible,” said Marisa. “It was really a unique experience, because my leaders knew I was looking for a job, so I didn’t have to hide it, they actually wanted to help me land it!” Marisa continued, “In fact, they helped me with my resume, and my leaders served as references; some even gave me LinkedIn endorsements!”

College Possible AmeriCorps service provides the structured support to develop leadership skills you might not acquire in other entry-level positions. “For so long, I did not see myself as a leader, because I always viewed leadership as a power hierarchy,” explained Marisa. “College Possible completely changed my perspective on what leadership truly is. In my role, I was expected to step up to the plate to lead other coaches in activities, and these coaches were helping empower students across the state. Leadership is all about using your power to amplify the voices of others. This way of thinking really changed my life.” It can often be difficult for entry-level interviewees to call out leadership roles and responsibilities they’ve held previously. College Possible offers tangible experiences to reference when university hiring managers ask about your comfort with managing large caseloads of students or managing college interns.

If you’re searching for a launching pad into a higher education career where you can hone skills like leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion programming, and relationship building, we encourage you to join us at an upcoming information session. We’ll be happy to answer questions about how a service year at College Possible can help kickstart your career!


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