So You Want to Make the Best Decision of Your Life Thus Far?

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Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This is based on my individual experience in applying to the program. This is not an exhaustive guide. Some of the processes may have changed, so this is not a promise that your experience will go the exact same way mine did. 

I know it’s only October, but perhaps you are in the same situation I was in a year ago. For some reason, you’ve decided to dedicate a year (or two!) of your life to a year of service while the rest of your friends are either beginning to apply for graduate school or are thinking about applying to various jobs. I know that some view the YAV year as a back-up plan if other opportunities fall through and that’s a totally acceptable route; however, it wasn’t a back-up for me. Being a YAV was first on my list of things I wanted to do after graduation. It took a lot of filling out forms, hours of conference calls and Skype interviews, and a healthy amount of waiting. The application is now ~*~live~*~ and ready for you to begin, so I thought it might be helpful for potential YAVs to get some guidance from someone who recently went through what they’re about to go through.

Before I continue, it’s important that you understand the system for applying to be a YAV. You’re not just sending in your resume to a company, hoping that they like you. You’re also not getting appointed by a committee to work somewhere new. The YAV application process is one of mutual discernment.

The Process:

  • Fill out the application
    • The first deadline is December 1, 2015, which means that everything required for the application must be submitted. I am a fantastic procrastinator and began the application on November 29th, thinking that all I would have to do was answer some essay questions. Wrong. I didn’t make the December deadline because I waited until the last minute to ask my references and church for support.
    • If you don’t make that first deadline, don’t worry. You’ll be okay. This is not like applying to college on a binding early decision basis. Try to submit the application as soon as it is ready so that you can start the process as soon as possible. Many phone calls are involved, and scheduling these can be difficult dependent on your schedule, so allow yourself plenty of time to complete all of the steps of the application process.
  • Check your email daily. You will get notified as each of your references completes their part. In the mean time, begin thinking about what sites you’d be interested in. Come up with a list of 3-5 cities.
  • Wait for an email from the Louisville office. This email will let you know that you’ve completed the application (including references) and are ready for your intake phone interview. Yay! Schedule the interview as soon as you can.
  • Talk to Lydia or another staff member on the phone. This sounds terrifying. It isn’t. Be honest with her about your experiences, hopes, and fears. You will be asked to talk about what sites interest you. Having a list of 3-5 sites before the conversation will be helpful for this conversation, but keep an open mind beyond this list. I’m in Miami now, but I never considered it as a possibility in the beginning!
  • You will receive an email for each city you listed. These emails will include contact information for each site coordinator. Get in touch with them as soon as possible to make an arrangement to talk informally to them.
  • Have your informal conversation with each site coordinator. Now is the time to ask any and every question about the site, the city, and what you could be doing if you moved there. Take notes on any positives or negatives! This will help you in your interview and your decision making.
  • After each conversation, think about how you felt afterwards. Go to Hiretouch and indicate whether or not you want to interview with the city. If you started with a list of 5, try to narrow your number down to 2 or 3. Be honest with yourself. Don’t choose a site just because the city has cool music festivals. How did you get along with the coordinator? Were any job opportunities named that sounded interesting to you? Could you see yourself living in the city?
  • Once you have said yes or no to each city, you will receive another email for each one saying that you have opted to interview with them. Just as you did before, set up a time to interview with each city you have selected.
  • Interview time! If this is going to be the first real interview you have had, do some researching on the internet for tips, especially if your interview is going to be a video interview. Through my research, I learned that staring at my face or the other person’s face on my screen was not the same as eye contact. In order to have eye contact on Skype, you have to look at your camera. It’s weird. Practice it.
  • After each interview, you will be directed to rank your interest in each site. It is important to know that you are not ranking the sites against each other. You are ranking them as individual sites based on how much or how little you would enjoy being at each one. Meanwhile, the site coordinator will consider how good of a fit they think you could be for their program. This goes back to the mutual discernment concept. The ultimate goal is to find the best match for you and for the site. If a site sees you as a good fit for them and you feel called to be there, that’s most likely God’s thumbs-up to the calling.
  • Eventually, you should receive an email with an offer to go to one of the sites. It will give you varied emotions. I received mine as the cruise ship I was on for spring break got close enough to a cell tower to access my email. I remember exactly where I was, who I told first, and how I felt. Assuming that you still want to be a YAV and everything went well, you will then go online to Hiretouch to accept the offer.
  • Surprise! You’ll get more emails with more wonderful forms to fill out. They’re important. Submit them as soon as possible.

Important notes/reminders:

  • When scheduling conversations or interviews, always make sure that you and the other person are clear on what time zone you’re using.
  • Go ahead and make a folder on your computer to keep track of files you have uploaded on Hiretouch or emailed to various people. This will be especially helpful if you are applying to a city that is also a DOOR site as their office may also ask you to submit forms for them to have. The sooner you properly fill everything out, the easier it will be on yourself and the staff.
  • Some of your phone calls are going to include praying before and/or after the conversation. Just be prepared for that. It’s not a huge deal, but it was incredibly unexpected for me and made me panic irrationally. I know – that’s the opposite of what prayer should do to a person…
  • Set aside time after your interviews to have quiet time for yourself. For me, the phone and Skype interviews were exhausting. While they only lasted an hour or so, they honestly wore me out and left me wanting to sleep for the rest of the day. Yay, introverts.
  • Talk to different people who know different parts of you. Your friends are going to have different advice than your youth minister, but both sides are important in your decision making.
  • If you know you’re going to have a conversation on the phone with someone, feel free to give them a little Google search if you know that will make you feel more comfortable. It’s likely that they’ve also Googled you.
  • YAV alumni are generally very eager to talk about their year(s) of service. If you are reading this, feel free to contact me (natalie.wolf.93@gmail.com) and I would be happy to talk with you or give you contact information from another current/former YAV!
  • I did not apply to any international sites, so there is nothing in this post about the discernment event that happens in March. Therefore, I am leaving out a crucial part of the process.
  • After being at orientation, I cannot emphasize enough that not everyone’s experience is going to be the same in the application process. This isn’t even completely accurate to my own experience. You will most likely go through one set back or another, but as long as you keep constant and honest communication with the YAV office, it will work out in the end.

Important links:

Apply Here!
Service Sites
Application Checklist
Hiretouch
YAV FAQ
Get to know the YAV staff
DOOR/Dwell website

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