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On Program Acceptance and Beyond, a FAQ on the Fellowship Journey

So it has finally happened! Through the application and the interviews with both Move for America and potential host sites, you've earned a place in our Fellowship! Congratulations! But now what?

Life is full of questions. Sometimes, their answers settle you, lead you to certainties. Sometimes, they just lead to more questions instead. If this particular 'yes!' is leaving you curious, nervous, or anything in between, perhaps these reflections from someone who has walked a similar path will help. Here are my answers to a few common questions asked of alumni by new leaders coming into the Fellowship, as someone nine months into my year of service.

 

 

What advice would you give someone joining the Fellowship?

 

Ask questions. I know I said they often lead to more questions, but the best way to learn really is to ask. Sometimes, it will also open up questions from others and they will learn something from you in kind. It’s a great way to build connections and a great habit for fostering bridging skills. Remember too that everyone around you wants to answer questions. They expect them as part of the Fellowship process and want you to come away with as much knowledge as you possibly can.

 

Also, try new things! Not only is it another good way to learn, but you might find something you love. This is a great time for exploration, for finding out what kind of work lights you up inside and where your skills make you an asset. If you’re worried that you might need support, remember that the Fellowship has many different systems built into it to make sure you get the resources and assistance you need, whether it’s from program alumni, the Move for America team, or your host sites. Even if it’s something you’re not certain of, at least bring up the fact that you’d like to do it and ask about how it might be possible or how you can get involved—questions, remember?

 

What do you wish you had known on your first day of service?

 

I wish I had known how much everyone genuinely wants to be helpful, to provide connections and experience, to help me find myself, as a professional, a leader, and a person. They do a fabulous job at making this very clear, and I caught on quickly, but it took me a bit to really get through my head and heart just how much everyone involved is rooting for Fellows and how much they want each and every one of us to succeed.

 

I wish too that I’d known how natural mistakes are. It’s something people say a lot—that mistakes are opportunities to grow, that everyone makes them, that there isn’t a need for shame around them. Yet I was still terrified for quite some time about messing up. And then I did. And the world didn’t end. My boss gave me some lovely advice that I took to heart. It didn’t happen again. This isn’t to say that we should treat mistakes as nothing—we are doing real work and often there are real consequences when a ball gets dropped. And yes, sometimes those consequences might get severe if many mistakes are made. But everyone drops balls. Learning to pick them up again is perhaps just as important as trying not to drop them in the first place, and it would have saved me some anxiety knowing that going in, knowing that people would still have my back when I messed something up.

 

What advice do you have for students / young leaders as they look for future careers or future programs to apply to?


Ask for advice on resumes. Move for America and your host sites are both likely going to be very willing to look over any job materials and help you fine-tune them, especially if you want to go into a similar area to your current work, but in general as well. They will also likely be willing to help introduce you to people with similar missions to yours. You never know what kinds of connections people hold, so asking—see, the questions just keep coming up—really can’t hurt!


It also probably helps to start early when looking for new programs. When you do this is up to you, but to me, 3—4 months out felt appropriate. Remember that you can’t really start anything full time until your Fellowship is over, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait that long to get moving on future opportunities.


 

What are some of the most valuable things that you learned during your time in the Fellowship program? 

Some of this may feel obvious, but the Fellowship really does teach what it says on the tin–skills for fostering dialogue across lines of difference. I feel like I know better how to gracefully and calmly comport myself during a conflict. I make fewer snap judgements about people based on their opinions, and often find myself wondering where an opinion comes from rather than making assumptions. I have seen bridging in action, seen people come together and learn about each other and the world through real, open conversation, and that’s the kind of knowledge that will stick with me forever, because I know what’s possible now when we go beyond biases and black-and-white thinking.

 

I will forever be grateful for these things, but I will also always be grateful for what the Fellowship taught me that goes beyond its brief. I have learned that sometimes conflict really matters and doesn’t always have to be the antithesis of peace, and that sometimes, I want to see it constructively happen—something I could have never said a year ago. I have learned that I really love writing, and that I want to do it for the rest of my life—which I knew in theory but didn’t really have the experience to back up until this year. I have learned that things that feel intimidating sometimes truly are, but that they are still possible to learn and that it does get easier, that nothing will be the same level of intimidating forever—looking at you, grant writing! Most importantly, I have learned that what I think and feel and have to say has value, that there is a use for my stances and my standards. But part and parcel with that, that I need to be open about these things, that we can only be truly grounded in ourselves and each other and the world when we listen—not in the way of someone swayed by every word and thought but as someone who truly seeks to hear and understand and shift when it feels necessary and right. This, too, will stick with me forever, because it helped me to better define who I am as a human, both personally and professionally. And it is this self-knowledge, grounded within the context of practical real-world experience, that is the true gift of the Fellowship.

 

I hope that, as you go through your Fellowship year, you, like me, learn something of the world, of your work, and, most importantly, of yourself. If you have any questions or would like to chat, please leave a comment on this blog or reach out to Jessica(at)move4america.org. I’d love to speak with you!

 



Curious About Joining our Fellowship Program Yet?


You’re in luck! Head over to our projects page and take a look at all the amazing places that Fellows are serving this upcoming year. We hope to introduce you to one of them soon! If you would like to be a part of this work, you can apply here, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on social media below, or make a donation.







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