#PowerOfAJob: AmeriCorps experience pays off downstream with a dream job

It’s Workforce Wednesday, when we spotlight Power of a Job success stories.

This week, we bring you former Washington Service Corps member Emily Watts, who joined the program after college. The Service Corps is part of the federal AmeriCorps community service program and is administered by the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Annually, the Washington Service Corps accepts more than 700 members, who fill unmet community needs in the areas of disaster preparedness; economic opportunity; education; environmental stewardship; healthy futures; and veterans and military families.

Emily’s experience as a member exposed her to new roles and ideas that led her to a job she loves. The Washington Service Corps helps communities and simultaneously creates a service-to-work pipeline around the state.

Here is Emily’s story:

I’m a water resources specialist with the City of Lacey in the public works department. I’ve been here almost two years now.

Going back a little bit, after graduating high school, I knew that I wanted to get a degree, but was not sure exactly in what. I decided to go to school locally at the Evergreen State College. It was not until my junior or senior year that I got into ecological economics. That’s when I knew I wanted to study this cross connection between natural resources, local policy and business.

However, I didn’t know how to get a job in that field or what kind of work went into that. I started looking for internships and part-time jobs and stumbled across AmeriCorps, which had many opportunities in the South Sound near my family. I ended up with a job with the City of Tacoma.

As an AmeriCorps member, I served as their active transportation and sustainability specialist and got to work with many large departments, such as Tacoma Power and Water. My job was to do outreach throughout the diverse communities in Tacoma, which garnered my interest in outreach. I knew I liked economics. I loved natural resources. Now I learned that I love communications and outreach, too. By putting these things together and reserving a table at the Tacoma farmer’s markets, I helped plan the Sustainability Expo and gained another skill — civil service —that I had not been interested in before. I just knew that I liked working for local city government.

After 10 months, I still wanted to work for city government in the Tacoma area. I found the Metropolitan Parks District of Tacoma. It’s like the city of Tacoma’s Parks and Recreation Department, but its own individual entity. Because I had city government experience with Tacoma, Metro Parks was very interested in me for their sustainability assistant position. It was part-time, but I applied anyway. Because I knew about Tacoma water, Tacoma power and outreach, they hired me.

My new job was similar to my role as an AmeriCorps member. I worked at the zoo doing outreach, tracking energy, water services and utilities. These activities crossed into public service, about which I was passionate. After about eight months at Metro parks, I started searching for a full-time position and found an opening with the City of Lacey as a full-time water resources specialist.

My AmeriCorps role provided experience with a utility and I gained more with Metro Parks. The Lacey job was all about communications and outreach, and I had answered so many public questions, that it was a great fit. The City of Lacey is a small tight-knit community, so I would get more hands-on experience doing volunteer activities. I got the position and have been with them now for about two years. All of this is building upon my previous experience as an AmeriCorps member.

I work with the water utility and wastewater now, answering public questions, doing rebates and holding public events. All my previous experience led to this position.

I would say to anyone who is looking for job experience, or not really sure what they want to do, look for service positions and apply for AmeriCorps. I got direct job experience right out of school with no experience, and it led to a full-time job.

To learn more about the Washington Service Corps and AmeriCorps, visit the Service Corps website.

The Employment Security Department is a partner in Washington’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, which helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job. We also work with businesses, which are Powered by Jobs, to help them find employees.

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