Turning Service Into a Career


It’s National Volunteer Week and as a former AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps member, that makes it a pretty special time for me. I donated ten months of my life right after college to national service. From August 2013 to May 2014, I got to travel the country while experiencing what working for a government agency was like. It was almost like taking the office I work in now for a test drive. Not many people can say that they got to do that.

For ten months, I lived service. It was all service all the time. I worked, played, and lived with my coworkers: a team of seven bright, kind, and passionate individuals. We were Otter 6, a team trained to work in FEMA’s Office of External Affairs, working on different outreach projects and with different sets of stakeholders.

FEMA Corps Class 20 Otter 6

That’s my team, Otter 6. I’m in the middle of the front row holding Flat Stella.

An intense integration into national service can often make any transition back into “real life” difficult. Fortunately, I didn’t really have to make that transition; I was able to turn my service year into the incredible job I have now. I haven’t really had to leave national service, if you’re getting technical. I still serve, but in a capacity to where I can wear flats instead of work boots and skirts instead of khaki cargo pants. (I still miss those giant pockets though!)

But how did I get so lucky?

Some days, I think it was pure dumb luck. But for the most part, it pertained to this quotation I read yesterday while doing research for a project:

“Put your butt in your seat, put your head down, and make yourself invaluable.”

I think about my time in FEMA Corps and I worked daily to make sure that I was an asset not only to my FEMA Corps team, but to FEMA. I networked, I asked questions, I asked for advice–and got some great answers. I tried every day to learn something. I applied and applied and applied for jobs in the Agency and got a couple of interviews–including the one for my job as the Digital Storyteller.

I took the skills and the lessons I learned from my prior experiences and I made it into my career…and I couldn’t be happier.

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Jessica Stapf is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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