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5 in 5! with Katelyn DeGennaro, Volunteer Coordinator for National MS Society New Jersey Metro Chapter

February 21, 2013

NMSS New Jersey Metro Chapter Color 5 in 5! with Katelyn DeGennaro, Volunteer Coordinator for National MS Society New Jersey Metro ChapterThe New Jersey Metro Chapter is one of the largest organizations within the society serving over 10,000 members living with MS, their friends and family. They welcome the opportunity to serve you, our friends, and will provide the outstanding level of service you expect. The New Jersey Metro Chapter was established in 2008 with the joining forces of the Mid Jersey and Greater North Jersey Chapters. With offices located in Oakhurst and Paramus the New Jersey Metro Chapter services individuals and families with multiple sclerosis living in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties. Although their office services this area, every office in our nationwide network of chapters offers programs that enhance knowledge, health, and independence. You can find more information on their Facebook.

After Katelyn DeGennaro graduated college as an Honors Scholar with a BS in Biology and a double minor in Chemistry and the Humanities, she turned her sights on her future in medical school. When she realized she had a year to do what she wanted, she reached out to the National MS Society – New Jersey Metro Chapter for an internship. Katelyn has two uncles living with MS, so this cause has always been very near and dear to her. After the summer, the internship turned into a full time Volunteer Coordinator position until she leaves for school next fall.

1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?

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Katelyn DeGennaro, Volunteer Coordinator for National MS Society New Jersey Metro Chapter

I actually started at my job as an intern. I participated with my uncle’s Walk MS team for seven years before I reached out to the chapter for an internship after college. This was not what I went to school for, I just believed in this charity and wanted to become more involved. I was assigned to be the intern for the Vice President of Development and learned a lot from her. After my first month as an intern, the volunteer coordinator position opened up and I was asked to take over the position for the summer. This summer position turned into a full time job because of how well I handled our summer events.

One of the best ways to get started in the non-profit world right now is to begin as an intern. As an intern you will have to work hard, learn from every experience, and try not to get too upset when you fail. (You’re an intern. You are brand new and still learning the ropes. You will likely fail at something, and that is okay as long as you learn from your mistakes.) Right now a lot of non-profits are hurting due to the economy, and are looking for interns to offset the work load as well as the bottom line. Show your supervisor you are an invaluable part of the team. Volunteer to work on every project available and show them you have a varied skill set. Also, speak up for yourself; if you want to work there full time, reach out to your supervisor and ask him or her to keep you in mind for any positions that may open up.

2. What’s the future of your industry or job?

Volunteer Coordinating has always been a very necessary part of working in the non-profit world. Due to a difficult economy, non-profits are leaning on their volunteers more than ever. I recruit volunteers for our signature events, interns, and general office volunteers. Volunteer Coordination is not an easy task. I am very lucky to have many volunteers dedicated to the fight against MS, but finding new volunteers can prove to be quite difficult. Volunteer Coordination is less about mass mailings and phone calls and more about online postings and e-mail blasts. My job changes every time social media changes. Once Facebook took over the internet, or chapter set up a page for every chapter event, then it was Twitter, YouTube, and Linked In. My most recent recruitment technique is our Chapter’s Pinterest. With new technology come new techniques. My job is not stagnant, it is constantly changing, and I have to change with it.

3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?

I look for someone well-spoken and passionate with a thirst for knowledge. When I applied for the internship, on paper I was not the best candidate. I was a college graduate with a degree in Biology and a minor in chemistry. (Great for a research lab, but an odd choice for the business world)My degree is not what granted me the position as an intern, it was the fact that I was passionate about the mission and I wanted to learn how to help people fighting this disease.

4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?

Be informed!! If you are applying for the National MS Society, and I ask if you have any questions, please do not ask me what MS is. It’s one thing if you don’t understand, but at least have an idea. Show me that you care about this internship and have done some research into what it is we do at the Chapter. Don’t just memorize a line from our mission statement and recite it at one point in the interview. Click though our website and see the programs and services we offer. Even though you may want to work on our events, know where the money raised is going at the end of the day.

5. Can you share a positive intern story and an intern horror story? No names needed…

Staff tends to keep in touch with interns when their time ends. On three occasions, when the intern had graduated and was ready to enter the working world, they were hired as entry level Development Department staff. It was wonderful to be able to offer these women in particular a position with us since we already had a strong relationship and made for an easy transition.

I don’t have one particular story that sticks out but we have had some challenges. I’ve had interns stay sitting at their chair for hours when done with a project waiting for someone to see them instead of just asking for more work. I’ve also had students who noted on their resume that they had certain computer skills and when called upon to do something, they had to be taught.

Interested in interning with the National MS Society New Jersey Metro Chapter? They’re currently looking for interns! Apply now.

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