My Turning Point: Service As A Lifestyle

Mar 26, 2012

Shannon ZoetToday’s turning point story is written by Shannon Zoet, Assistant Director at Michigan Campus Compact, an affiliate of the Michigan Nonprofit Association. Shannon is also a Membership Co-chair for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network in Grand Rapids.

As long as I can remember, my family has instilled a spirit of service in me. Though nobody ever used that phrase, looking back, I know that is what I was learning. My parents and grandparents have always modeled a lifestyle that showed me that service is not just about those flashy one-day events we all love, but rather, it’s an ongoing process of supporting others with your time and talents.

I always knew that this type of ever-present service would be a part of my life, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized I could make a career of it. My personal turning point came several months after I graduated from college. I had a degree in communications and went to work at a publishing house where I was asked to promote books that had no meaning to my life. I knew I would not last in a job that didn’t play to my personal passions, so I left that position to join AmeriCorps.

After two years of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I knew I was on the right path. I knew that a career in the nonprofit sector – inspiring others to serve and supporting the infrastructure for widespread service – was how I wanted and needed to spend my energy. I earned an advanced degree in nonprofit leadership, and I now work for Michigan Campus Compact (part of the Michigan Nonprofit Association), supporting colleges and universities to promote public and community service and develop students’ citizenship skills. I am proud to be part of an organization that is helping cultivate current and future leaders of service.

I have not only chosen to make a career in the service sector, but I continue to exercise the spirit of service my family instilled in me as a child. Rather than focus my time on one or two volunteer opportunities by dedicating myself to a particular cause or passion, I have chosen, for now, to spread my energy as wide as possible. I look for small opportunities to serve others in everyday life; I serve on the board of my local Young Nonprofit Professionals Network to encourage the growth and success of the service sector in my community; I ask how I can serve the people and organizations I care about, and then I show up wherever and whenever I can.