“Post-College” is a series of blog posts featuring everyday young people as their work to achieve the life and career that they dreamed of. Few of them find themselves in places that they mapped out and most of them are okay with that.
Vanessa Reyes is a 22 year old legal Advocate/LVC Intern in the VAWA Unit of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
What did your life after school look like?
I’m currently involved in a volunteer service corps. I am living as part of an intentional community with six other people working to uphold the values of social justice, simplicity and sustainability, and spirituality.
Each of us also has a full-time job at an organization working in different areas of social justice. I am working at an organization that provides legal services to refugees and immigrants and my unit works with survivors of certain crimes, mostly domestic violence.
We get paid a small stipend each month that limits the lifestyle we can have but definitely covers all the necessities.
We have a fairly large support system of religious leaders, LVC staff, and former LVs in the area that we can reach out to if we ever need anything.
So though this program is not without its challenges, it’s a really nice transition for post-grad life–like in college, I’m still living among my peers and I have support, but I am also working full-time and am having to navigate the real world in all its messiness in a way that I was largely shielded from in college.
What are the past positions you’ve held that you are most proud of and why?
Executive Intern for the City of Moline: partly because it sounds impressive but mainly because it was a “real” internship–I wasn’t just copying and filing things, I was doing real work and I was using things I had learned in my major and I learned a lot as well.
What were some of the most disappointing positions you’ve held or work that you’ve done?
What positions or past work have you held/done that you feel got you to the point you’re at today and explain the connection:
I spent some time volunteering at Humility of Mary Housing in Davenport, IA–the organization provides transitional housing and support to single-parent families, many of whom have been survivors of domestic violence. I worked in the administrative offices and didn’t have much contact with clients, but I did get a good view into the inside workings of a non-profit. Volunteering there cemented my desire to work in the non-profit field doing social justice work. My internship with the City of Moline also has gotten me to the point I’m at today. Not only because of what I mentioned above but also because I got to see how the public sector works and ways that the private and public sectors intersect. And it was my first job working full-time in an office setting, which helped me get acclimated to my position now.
What would you say is the most invaluable information or advice you could pass on to those who are looking to get into your field? If you’re currently unemployed or not in your desired job field, how would you help others avoid the situation you’re in?
II think I lucked out in that because I’m doing a volunteer program, I got the chance to get my foot in the door into this field that I may not have gotten otherwise if I had just gone into the working world straight out of college. So perhaps my advice is unwarranted, but I would still tell fellow recent grads to seek out opportunities in areas you are passionate about and to be persistent. The internships, jobs, and volunteer work I did in college I did so because they were in areas that I cared about and I looked for those opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to me. And also don’t get discouraged when reading job descriptions asking for more experience than you have. Find ways to sell the talents and skills that you do have and show potential employers that they are more valuable than 20 years experience.
How do you think college prepared you for what you’re experiencing today?
College provided me exposure to social justice issues and a diversity of people, lifestyles, ideas, opinions, etc.
How much of what you’re doing today did you learn in other ways besides formal education?
A good chunk–a lot of what I’m doing is direct services with clients and knowing how to talk to people with different life experiences and situations is something I learned outside of formal education.
What are other resources that you ended up relying on heavily to fill in the gaps of what you didn’t learn in school?
Talking to older friends and family and reading online articles/blog posts from others that have been doing it for a while
What are your goals and name some ways you plan on achieving them (long-term, short-term, pet projects, self-development, ect.):
Some long-term goals I have for myself are to save money and travel and I will most likely go back to school at some point.
Because I’m living on a tight stipend (& have a mountain of student loan debt hanging over my head) it’s a little overwhelming to think about the future and about saving money, but I am trying to stay on a budget, keep track of all my spending, and save a little each month.
After my service year, I hope to find a job and continue these habits and hopefully by that point I will be experienced enough at living on a conservative budget that I could continue doing so in order to save more money (but we’ll see how that goes…).
What are some of the ways that you keep yourself motivated to stay on track and stick to your goals?
I think about my family, about everything my parents have sacrificed for me to have a good life and about being a good role model for my younger siblings.
In what ways do you see yourself investing in your career over your lifetime?
I want to continue learning. I probably will go back and get a master’s but also continue more informal education by staying up to date on what’s going on in the world.
That wraps up Vanessa’s interview.
Check back in every Thursday for a new post in the series.
If you’re interested in sharing your own experiences, here’s how.