Sarah Fichera completed the MPA program at the College of Charleston in May of 2017 and currently resides in the Charleston area. Her current position is Director of Grants Management at the Dorchester Children’s Advocacy Center in Summerville. Upon entering the program, Sarah knew she wanted to work for a mission relating to youth development and child welfare; however, she was uncertain about which sector or job roles she was interested in. Through her Graduate Assistantship with the Community Assistance Program, she gained experience writing grants for the Charleston Freedom School which solidified her career aspirations to work in the nonprofit sector as a Grant Writer/Fundraiser.
Sarah began applying for positions in March before graduation; while she had job leads prior to commencement, she did not have a position secured. Her perception of the job market for MPA students is optimistic as there is an abundance of jobs available in the nonprofit and government entities in the Greater Charleston metro area. “The trick is getting your foot in the door and knowing the right people. It is never too early to start networking and getting your name out there.”
Attending the MPASA Professional Development events as an MPA student significantly benefited Sarah with the job application process. “At these events, I noticed how effectively the speakers communicated their story. I spent so much time when writing my resume and preparing interviews to ensure I was effectively communicating my story.” She learned to connect and leverage the skills she gained through her MPA experiences, such as an assistantship, involvement with MPASA, an internship and course work, in relation to each job application. In addition, Sarah’s outstanding piece of advice for students questioning their qualifications in the job application process is: “Apply anyway! I have learned that qualifications are somewhat fluid on job postings and both your hard and soft skills matter.”
The most surprising experience in Sarah’s first year as an MPA graduate is how relevant the MPA degree is to her daily life. “For example, my organization is in the process of developing a formal program evaluation system. In creating metrics, our team often confuses outputs and outcomes. I developed a logic model and presented it to my team to provide clarity. I am happy I can be an asset to my organization in this way and I owe it to the MPA program!”