Service: A Pathway to Employment

The indisputable potential of service year alumni

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Service. Defined simply as the act of meeting a need or contributing to the welfare of others. As you know, service comes in many forms. It’s not just the tried-and-true examples that corporate citizenship leaders are actively developing in order to mobilize employees to solve community issues. Citizens of the world also commit their time, energy and talent to public, national or military service. You can find out more about these forms of service in the latest edition of Civic Life Today.

We know providing opportunities to serve the communities where employees live and work is part of an impactful retention strategy for companies of all sizes and a way to attract purpose-driven talent, but how can service play an added role in recruitment – especially at a time dubbed the ”Great Resignation” or the ”Turnover Tsunami”? 

In June 2021, nearly four million Americans quit their jobs, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Research from Microsoft finds that more than 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their job this year and Monster reports as many as 95% of U.S. employees are thinking about a career change. With numbers that high, it appears we’ve arrived at an attraction and retention crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen before.

Why are employees quitting in droves? They are looking for purpose, better pay, more flexibility or more supportive corporate cultures where their work is valued. Truth be told, employers should have seen this coming. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report tells us that only 20% of workers around the world are engaged, leaving the rest disengaged or actively disengaged.   

Here’s where your knowledge and connections as a leader in corporate citizenship can play a larger role in support of this increasing battle for talent. If they’re not already plugged in, make sure your partners in HR are scouting from the perfect pipeline – alumni of service year programs! 

Service year programs provided by organizations like AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Seniors, Peace Corps, City Year, Atlas Corps, Teach for America, Youth Build and so many more, offer a participant a paid opportunity to develop real-world skills through hands-on service in communities around the globe. These real-world skills, especially soft skills that are not easily taught or learned, are incredibly important for businesses to remain competitive in today’s economy. Alumni from these programs are equipped to lead and manage, and are ready help any organization achieve results. 

What are some of the skills learned and honed while participating in a service year? More than likely it’s the same competencies your company is looking for in new recruits!

  1.  Leadership: Alumni demonstrate strong ethics, empower others to self-organize, foster a sense of connection and belonging, show openness to new ideas and nurture growth.
  2. Critical thinking: Alumni are able to sort through useful and arbitrary details in order to evaluate a problem or situation, form an objective judgement that leads to a critical solution or decision.
  3. Getting things done with limited resources: Alumni focus on proactively achieving results through effective planning and optimizing the resources they have access to.
  4. Accountability: Alumni understand the responsibility that comes with being accountable for their own actions and decisions, the actions of team members and their individual and collective results[i]. They hold themselves and others to common expectations that align with an organization’s values and mission.
  5. Adaptability: Alumni have a proven ability to learn new concepts and skills quickly[i] even without explicit instruction. They are creative and can respond effectively to changing working conditions. They also have experience dealing with ambiguity and demonstrate that they are able to act or shift gears without having all the details, making confident decisions even without the whole picture.
  6. Initiative: Alumni are immediate contributors who lead by example as well as through direction, delegation, motivation and inspiration[i].
  7. Interpersonal and intercultural communication: Alumni excel in partnering and communicating with diverse racial, religious, ethnic, cultural and geographic groups[i]. Their broad experience has given them a deeper understanding of the world around them.
  8. Collaboration: Participation in a national service program has fostered an alumni’s ability to work individually and as part of a team, instilling a strong work ethic and responsibility to and appreciation of one’s colleagues[i].

Your company’s hiring managers would also be well advised to think through the hard skills that service year alumni also possess that align with the roles they’re trying to fill on Learning and Development or Communications teams, such as the ability to speak several languages or the aptitude to teach others.  

Don’t forget – for you – these newly hired service year alums will make passionate and dedicated champions of your company’s social good efforts. That’s a win-win-win for the business, employees, and for the communities where your company operates.

  

Resources

  • The Voices for National Service Business Council works to highlight the vital role the private sector plays in supporting and investing in national service programs, unleashing citizens to tackle the pressing problems facing their communities. Through the Business Council, companies and private sector leaders work to promote and strengthen bipartisan support for AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors and are recognized for their leadership and commitment to expanding service opportunities for all Americans.
  • Employers of National Service is an initiative that connects service year alums with over 600 employers from the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Through this initiative, employers have increased access to a dedicated, highly qualified and mission-oriented pool of potential employees, and service year alums have additional opportunities to connect with employers that value their skills. To become an Employer of National Service, employers pledge to recognize service year experience in their hiring practices.
  • Service Year Alliance is working to make a year of paid, full-time service — a service year — a common expectation and opportunity for all young Americans. Our vision: Every year, one million young Americans engaged in a service year, solving important problems while transforming their own lives. Read more about their campaign, Serve America Together, which is working to lift up national service as a pathway to employment.
  • Pathways After Service: Education and Career Outcomes of Service Year Alumni, Burning Glass Technologies, Dec 2018. This study highlights where service year alums outshine their peers in employment and education outcomes.
  • AmeriCorps Alumni Outcomes Study, Corporation For National and Community Service, Aug 2017. This study looks at self-reported data from service year alums that indicates they are more civically engaged, more prepared for careers and more confident in their ability to solve programs and plan strategically than before their service year experience.

 

 


[i] Competencies are drawn from the AmeriCorps Alums Spring 2014 survey, the Abt Associates longitudinal study “Still Serving: Measuring the Eight-Year Impact of AmeriCorps on Alumni” and informed by the Voices for National Service “National Service: Providing Pathways to Employment” report.

 

Katy Elder

Vice President, Business Innovation, Points of Light

A member of the Points of Light team since November 2012, Katy serves as Vice President, Business Innovation. She brings with her nearly 20 years of experience in employee volunteerism, community affairs and internal communications. After leading Points of Light’s corporate consulting practice for six years, she is now responsible for developing content and innovative learning opportunities to advance the corporate citizenship sector.

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