Vfa

Before you hire anyone, read this post

The title of this post is pure click bait, but this post may lead you to the best hiring decision you've ever made. And it may change your life. Maybe not. Read on.

Back when I first came to the City Club, the good folks at FlashStarts invited me to an informational meeting about a program called Venture For America (VFA). Like the similarly named Teach For America (TFA), VFA is a training and placement program for the brightest college grads. Where TFA puts young people in needy schools, VFA puts them in companies poised for growth or innovating in some specific way. I was intrigued, and, from a City Club perspective, I thought, oh hey, this founder--Andrew Yang--sounds like he might make a pretty good City Club speaker. So we began the process of inviting him and arranging for him to speak at a City Club forum.

Yang did great. He sold a bunch of books, engaged the community in a wide-ranging conversation about the role of entrepreneurship, venture investment, talent attraction and retention, and how VFA is making companies stronger by matching them with top tier talent.

 

 

In the intervening months, though, between hearing about VFA and meeting Yang, the City Club wound up hosting a small happy hour for the VFA fellows, and I found them all to be exceptionally talented and engaging. And I wished I had the opportunity to hire one. But how would that happen? We're a 103 year old non profit--not exactly a venture-backed start up.

And then one of our younger employees gave notice, and I suddenly had a near-perfect opening. We crafted the job description as the heart of innovation inside our century-old enterprise, pitched VFA on the idea, and the next thing I knew, I had access to resumes and profiles of dozens of the smartest, most innovative and driven young people I'd ever seen simultaneously assembled in one place. It was as if the business of resume sifting was gone, because virtually every candidate was someone I knew I wanted to interview and possibly hire.

In the end, we hired a young woman that many in the City Club community have gotten to know. Fay Walker is our Marketing and Outreach Fellow, and part of her job is to serve as the liaison to all of our community partners and marketing partners. Other members of the team often marvel at what a solid, hard worker she is, and the growth in our program reach is attributable directly to her efforts.

Working with an eye to the spirit of the VFA program, we tend to put our VFA fellow at the center of most of our innovative initiatives, or programs that need innovation. So, in addition to the community partner program and our digital and print marketing, Fay has brought both our Youth Forum Council and our annual Free Speech Essay contest to new levels.

Here's a couple of other considerations. If you want to hire a recent grad, many will leave within the first 12-18 months. The VFA fellows make a two-year commitment. Also,  if, like me, you see part of your job as being an ambassador for your hometown, this is a solid way to make a contribution to your own local brain gain effort. Of the current 20 or so VFA fellows in Cleveland, a majority of them say they would love to stay in town after their two year commitment. 

The VFA placement process has just begun. Interviews happen between now and June.  If you have an opening or need to expand your team, give them a look. Or find a VFA fellow who is about to end their commitment and give her a reason to stay.

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