By Kathryn Eklund
Two years ago when I graduated college I felt unstable, insecure, and sort of frantic. I had submitted loads of applications to real jobs, but I couldn’t even get an interview. I debated going to grad school, even though I was nowhere near ready mentally or financially. I was feeling immense pressure from the outside world to suddenly have everything together, and in turn, feeling wholly inadequate. When I applied for and accepted an Energy Corps position, it was my last option and a harsh reality check that left me feeling like I had failed.
Fast forward to today, and I feel much more grounded. Instead of fearing the future, I am looking forward to it. When I job search I find a variety of positions I am highly qualified for. I am proud of the work I have done and the resume I have built. I am confident in my ability to lead meetings, work with stakeholders, win grants, and most importantly, tout my abilities and advocate for myself. I am ready to begin job searching again and take my next step.
I was no Energy Corps advocate when I took this job, but from where I sit now I see the value of the program. Employers these days simply won’t take a chance on undergrad students, and these positions give us the experience we need to get real jobs. Without it, we simply can’t compete. Energy Corps also gave me the time and space I needed to think about what I want in my career and life, and it saved me from making the irrational decision to go back to school, simply because of societal pressure to do so.
In the two years since I have been out of college I have noticed an interesting thing – a good deal of kids I went to school with are now taking AmeriCorps positions. It seems to me that the benefits AmeriCorps offers – job experience, increased confidence in your abilities, time to figure out what you want – have only become more important to today’s emerging professionals. So, maybe I was on the right track all along.