Over the course of the next several months (and in spite of the pandemic), a new class will leave college and enter a workforce that needs people with big ideas and real leadership skills to make a difference. One option new grads have is a fellowship. While there are dozens or even hundreds of paid fellowships out there, I want to share with you just one aspect of my fellowship experience that I did not consider when I applied.
I recently wrapped up two years working as the FAO Schwarz Fellow at uAspire, a nonprofit in Boston that works to make college affordable. The FAO Schwarz Fellowship is designed for people who have aspirations in the world of social impact. At uAspire, I split my time between advising a caseload of approximately 600 post-secondary students through the financial aid process and working on various capacity-building projects within the Program department. Wearing two different hats and adjusting to work life wasn’t always easy, but my managers were a great source of support as I learned to balance these two sides of my work. During my two years, I also depended on another resource – my cohort of peer Fellows.
I didn’t consider the benefits of a cohort when I applied for the Fellowship. Rather, I focused on the opportunity to grow in the social impact sector. But my cohort surprisingly played a significant role in the success of my transition. By design of the Fellowship, we were collectively learning what it means to toggle between different responsibilities, manage relationships and learn to advocate for our communities. We not only discussed the various successes and challenges at our respective organizations, but also how we could thrive in a constantly evolving role. We shared ideas, debated social issues and brainstormed ways to shape the Fellowship for future Fellows.
It’s strange to think of how I may have experienced my time as a Fellow without a group of peers in similar roles.
- Would I have reflected as much on my work, on uAspire, or on the nonprofit sector?
- How would I have adjusted to working amidst the chaos that is post-grad life?
- And in light of the past year, what would it have been like to navigate the current double pandemic of COVID-19 and blatant racial injustice in our nation without the opportunity to reflect on how to respond in our various community-facing roles?
I hope you will consider a fellowship experience. There are so many different ones available, and they can be a great opportunity to test new waters, rapidly gain real experience and set you up for future challenges.
- SecondDay offers paid, academic year fellowships in nonprofit organizations to current seniors. They also offer the Community Scholars Program for college students who are looking for industry deep-dives, professional development, job search training, and individual mentorship to jump start careers dedicated to social change
- ProFellow lists hundreds of fellowship opportunities for new grads as well as experienced nonprofit professionals.
- Find out more about the FAO Schwarz Fellowship. Our Fellowship also hosts online info sessions.
And to all the seniors reading this, best wishes for your final year.
–Joyce Kim, FAO Schwarz Fellow, ’20
This post first appeared in an email from the FAO Schwarz Fellowship and is reprinted here with the permission of the Fellowship, with a few additions.