What I learned from my AHAH Volunteering Experience to help me land my first job
August 27, 2019
Entering my senior year at Emporia (Kansas) State University, I had one summer before joining the waves of job seekers entering “the real world.” With no set plans for summer 2018, and no planned career path, I decided to give back. Having no construction experience – except for the birdhouse I built in middle school — and a desire to learn and willingness to work hard, I spent my summer in Tortola, British Virgin Islands helping construct schools.
Throughout my time in the BVI, I noticed that All Hands and Hearts empowers volunteers to make a difference in a variety of ways. My intentions for applying for a volunteer position were to give back, but what I discovered is what AHAH gave me. The volunteers and the staff were incredible, providing a substitute family and home while living in a place 2,341 miles (or 3,767km) from my home in Kansas.
As I spent time on the various sites, I ended up spending the most time at the Autism Centre, a site that needed a hurricane-proof roof. The Centre had been devastated by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Even with my limited construction knowledge, the smaller crew at the Centre gave me an opportunity to experience a wide variety of responsibilities, as well as giving me key skills relevant to the job. One day I’d be hauling cement in buckets and the next I’d ignore my fear of heights to secure cross beams with heavy bolts 30 feet above the ground. But I not only wanted to challenge myself physically but in other ways. So I worked to become a Team Leader where I could gain some administrative experience. As a Team Leader I learned to incorporate problem solving and critical thinking whilst working through issues, delegation of work responsibilities, effective communication to my superiors and to those I was to lead, and taking the initiative when decisions had to be made.
Being a Team Leader was more than volunteer work on my resume. It gave me an opportunity to become more deeply embedded in my BVI experience. I discovered a great appreciation for the work we were doing and the unique communal environment that afforded us the chance to forge special bonds. Unfortunately, after six weeks I had to return home to work and attend school for one final year. Although volunteering in the BVI was over, I left wanting to do more.
When I returned home, weekly I would check the All Hands and Hearts’ Careers page website. I knew I was interested in doing more disaster relief work. If I could build my resume that led to a full-time job, that would be a bonus. I was ecstatic when I saw an opening for a Digital Channels Intern position, which incorporated the skills I learned as a double major in Information Systems and Marketing. Additionally, it was a remote internship so I could continue to complete the final semester of college.
The key skills I learned as a Team Leader with All Hands and Hearts in summer 2018 led to the opportunity to intern with the AHAH Digital Channels team in spring 2019. During the internship, I didn’t haul buckets of cement or hoist roof beams 20 feet high, but I learned a new set of skills while working with people who were equally dedicated as those who those who I spent time with in Tortola. Upon the completion of the internship, I’ll be working as an Internet Leads Manager. The cumulative experiences with AHAH has led me to my first full-time job, having given me valuable work experience on my resume’s experience section and stand out to hiring managers. But what I learned as a Team Leader in the BVI or with the Digital Channels team are more than a set of skills. AHAH gave me lifetime experiences and a lifelong appreciation for those who help others.
Sure, I will now join “the real world,” but the fact is, there was nothing more real than rebuilding the Autism Centre alongside dedicated people with a similar goal of making the world a better place. I can honestly say All Hands and Hearts has provided experiences I will never forget. I hope to someday soon I can create more memories with them.
Story by Trent Reinardy, Photos and Video by Mark Whale for All Hands and Hearts