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How To Embrace Your Job If It's Not "The One"

Kayla Duncan

Age: 24

Job: Logistics Administrator at Atlanta Mission

Location: Atlanta, Georgia


Kayla and I were connected through Daniel, a fellow Georgia State grad. Kayla's story of gaining valuable work experience before finding the right job and how to become a more competitive job candidate is why I think you will enjoy hearing from her today.

Can you give us a brief overview of your background?

I'm originally from New Orleans and attended Georgia State University for my undergraduate degree where I interned for Lutheran Services of Georgia, I believe they're now known as Berettas. They helped refugees on a client base level as soon as they arrived to get them on their feet through training them for jobs and helped them build their resumes. I graduated last year in May and during that time, I got to do a little bit more of what I was passionate about, which is ending mass incarceration. I interned with the U.S. Attorney's Office with the implementation of their programs of reducing mass incarceration through crime prevention strategies.

What is your current role and what is the day-to-day like?

I'm currently in a temporary position with Atlanta Mission as the logistics administrator. I make sure that their facilities are running efficiently. If something were to break, I'm the one who contacts the vendors. I keep up with their vehicles to ensure that they're running efficiently. Right now with the coronavirus, we've had to, of course, let people who are above the age of 60 work from home for their safety. Since I didn't find a position immediately after postgrad, I went through a second agency to get this current temporary position, and now I'm interviewing for permanent positions in my degree field.

What was the job search process like that led you to this temporary position?

When I was preparing to graduate, I was interviewing for different fellowship positions in New York and Boston because I thought that was the best option for me. I was doing really broad-based interviews for policy different companies were flying me out to various places. However, each time they came down to me and one other candidate and they always chose someone that had a little bit more experience than me. It was really frustrating for me to not be able to get a job despite being qualified for it. I also had some health issues which slowed down my job interview process, so I decided to go through a staffing agency so that I could work on getting more experience. Since I have a Master's in social work, Atlanta Mission has been able to utilize me in their client support services. It has been a great opportunity to be able to get a larger scope of what it's like to run a nonprofit on an administrative level.

What has been a hardship for you and how have you overcome that?

My biggest hardship was knowing that I'm doing well in my interviews, knowing that my cover letter is strong and that I did have adequate experience, it may just not have been as long as someone else. I had a lot of fear at first because I thought that I was supposed to start working immediately after grad school. Then with this temporary position, I had the opportunity to rest to some degree. I have enjoyed not feeling as forced to go immediately from school to a career field, and now I don't feel as stressed while searching for a more permanent position in my field.

What skills are you working on to help you stand out, among others, when your age is a factor?

The administrative office has different departments so they can offer support services when working with clients and jobs. In the front of the building are the receptionist and H.R. and then I'm in the back with a maintenance crew and any time one of the departments needs help, I say yes. Through that, I've been able to learn and continue to practice how to help clients get jobs by improving their resumes and interview questions. This allows me to gain more experience in client engagement, which is important in social work. I've also been helping out the accounting office by organizing their files and making sure everything is quoted correctly. That area of work is very detail-oriented, which is another important skill in social work. I have also done a lot to help with the grant work, so if I see an issue, I let the grant department know and then they can take the correct steps. This allows me to really hone in on developing skill sets that I probably wouldn't have if I had started on a micro level as a social worker who worked primarily on a laptop. Even though I came in with a small, temporary position, I have developed great relationships, which could go a long way as well.

What is your dream position in the social work field?

One of the biggest things for me is progressing marginalized communities, particularly people who come from low-income areas. For me that means particularly working with youth and making sure that they have accessibility to resources; quality meals and if they're wanting to go to college, making sure that they get the funding to help them out. So often we see youth go into college without adequate funds and they end up taking out loans that cause debt. It takes low-income youth longer to build wealth which contributes to the school to prison pipeline. My dream position would be one that allows me to work on a community-based level. My hope would be that the youth I worked with would be able to achieve a college education and also start advocating for policies to be changed within low-income communities in order for them to continue to have accessibility to vital resources.

What is it like being a professional in your area and what do you like about being a professional?

I think the wonderful thing about Atlanta is that it is really a city of young people who are trying to create themselves. It is inspiring to me that we're all surrounded by successful people while trying to be the best possible version of ourselves. My favorite quote is by Toni Morrison, and she says “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” As I become a successful young professional, people who come from my community look to me as an example. I have made friends that have connected me with other professionals and that has allowed me to build a network and then be a connection for others. Atlanta is a great place for professionals, especially for a minority to be in the city and have the ability to grow a network.

What motivates you?

What motivates me the most is the feeling I have that I'm supposed to make an impact on people's lives. When I see kids or other minorities sitting in jail I see that they're lacking resources and being criminalized for it and that bothers me and makes me want to work a lot harder and not give up on my career field. The last six months during my initial job search were hard and made me doubt if I was meant to be in the field. However, I go to a community service project or go back to visit my old internship and see the clients who are now out of prison and it reaffirms that this is where I want to be. Especially now with the pandemic, I worry that a lot of low-income people are not being protected and that frustration motivates me.

Any last-minute words of advice that you want to share?

In social work, there is this narrative that you can't make a lot of money, and while I do see that starting out, I think that it is important to remember your why when you're in this field. Also, make sure you take care of your mental health first, oftentimes this field of work can be very draining. I encourage young professionals who are interested in social work to get the mental health resources they need in order to best serve their clients.

YoPro Know's Takeaways:

– It is okay if you take a temporary job if you are struggling to find work postgrad. Doing so can allow you to gain more experience and become a more competitive job candidate

– If you are interested in the field of social work it is important to take care of your own mental health as it can be an emotionally draining field

Check it out: Atlanta Mission

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