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AmeriCorps and the 20-Something Phenomenon

August 20, 2010

As my college graduation neared, I started to feel scared. The claustrophobia of having my lifelong commitments begin at age 22 disturbed me and I needed a way out–but one that still made me feel productive and energized.

Hello, AmeriCorps!

It turns out I might not have been alone in my fears. Twenty-somethings in huge numbers are either moving back in with their parents or just staying at home longer, a phenomenon that began even before the current economic downturn, as the New York Times recently reported. It’s clearly a signpost of many societal shifts as we redefine our expectations on marriage, families, even success and prosperity.

Traditionalism bores me. I’d be unhappy if I’d followed the post-college path of my parents, straight into career and family. Instead, I deliberately chose to avoid that route by joining AmeriCorps, first with NCCC and a year later as a VISTA. These decisions have served me well both psychologically and, perhaps a bit ironically, career-wise. I’ve found that in an increasingly competitive job market, my AmeriCorps terms have helped me stand out with interesting and unique experiences to back up my job skills.

So maybe it works in your favor if you eschew the traditional school-career-family path and travel the world working on organic farms or teach English abroad. Your horizons are certainly much wider than someone who has never left their hometown, never been inspired to hop over the back fence and explore and experience. It’s just a matter of putting that on your resume.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ben M. permalink
    August 20, 2010 2:06 pm

    I think this is a sign of the times here in the United States. On the one hand there are now so many opportunities available to our generation, it’s impossible to not find at least one which speaks to our interests. On the other, our generation, as a whole, hasn’t been privy to the “real-life” experiences which will help in such necessary tasks as establishing household budgets and saving for retirement.

    Being recently married and with “one in the oven” at 26 it’s a balancing act, but one my experience in AmeriCorps has and will continue to help me navigate. I know how to live on a minuscule budget. What’s the cheapest, healthiest meals? What’s the cheapest, fastest mode of transportation to my destination in my city of choice, Washington, DC? How do I convince strangers of my cause and it’s importance? To me, being presented with these questions at 19, without the stress of having a “real job,” gave me the biggest opportunity of all. To see what I’m truly made of. Turns out, I have a pretty loud voice and one that can carry relatively far. I can see holes in projects before they begin and am able to recognize team members’ inherent strengths and put them on projects they’ll not only be good at, but that they’ll enjoy.

    I’ve been told time and time again by professionals, once I’m all done with school (won’t have the JD till 30) I’ll be on a higher plane than my peers. So while I sometimes which I could have rushed myself along a little faster, I know all the wandering around I’ve done post-high school will truly pay off. My net quality of life and work will be substantially higher as a result. Signing up for a term of AmeriCorps after high school and another 2 years ago were and still are the best professional decisions I’ve made.

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