“Thank you for applying to the Atlas Corps Fellowship and for your patience throughout this long selection process… Although you were designated as a Semi-Finalist for the Fellowship, we REGRET to inform you that your application did not fit the profile of any Host Organizations in this application cycle.” How frustrating is it to keep getting this Email? I totally understand how you are feeling, that is why I am writing this specifically for you. Lemme share a little bit about myself before we proceed.

My name is Sunga and I am an Atlas Corps Fellow from Malawi class 34, serving at Philanthropy University, I was in the semifinalist pool for 2.5 years, Yes I know, now understand what I mean when I say I know how getting the above email 3-4 times a year is infuriating. Now that that’s out of the way I would like to congratulate you for making it to the semifinalist stage, that on its own is an achievement, It says a lot about you and your leadership as well as your work. You are very competent having had made it this far. However, I know that you may feel its easy for me to say this because I am now a fellow but maybe you can learn from me what I did during this annoying waiting period that contributed to my becoming a fellow right now or maybe I can be your friend who encourages you for now?

First I want you to understand that Atlas Corps partnerships team are doing all they can to get a lot of host organization involved with the fellowship which will then increase the number of fellows to come and be part of this amazing journey hence reducing this waiting period. Back to my waiting period, So, I asked myself if waiting for Atlas Corps was worth it, after all, I had opportunities to do other things, why should I say I am still available for one year of service when I keep being told to wait? What if there won’t be a fit after all this waiting and hoping? So one day I responded to the email and filled the forms with an angry message, I am not even kidding saying “it’s been too long and I would rather pursue other IMPORTANT things than Atlas. Call it fate but I ended up getting that email asking me if I am available for the January class in October 2018, So I was puzzled but I said I was only available. I did my interview in November but the rest is history now.

I won’t bore you with the details because that is a story for another day. However, one thing that contributed to my being here is prior to my rant I had updated my profile with my then CV/Resume and worked on my essays some more. I made my CV one page which was so easy for host organizations to read than the 3 pages it was before. I made my CV so presentable that I could have even hired myself. It was short but it highlighted my strong experiences in program management as well as my strongest skills. Which were one of the things my host organization was looking for, They wanted someone who had experience in project management and implementation and those were the skills and experiences I had highlighted in my resume? Have you updated your profile and resume? Have you added the new skills you have acquired? How relevant is your resume to the organization you are hoping to join? Have you made yourself look good through your essays? If this was the most competitive program you have evaluated would you put you hire yourself? Would you be impressed by the mere presentation of your resume?

Lastly, I want to encourage you to not give up. This is a great opportunity and worth the wait. I did an interview in 2017 that is a year before my current organization that did not work out and it was very frustrating, But today I am grateful I had to wait for those 2.5 years before getting here, for my host organization to find me because I am enjoying being part of a team that is committed to capacity building for leaders in the global south of which I am one. I am enjoying growth. I believe if I had joined Atlas 2.5 years ago I wouldn’t have met my amazing classmates who are really amazing and unique. I wouldn’t have been part of Phil U. I wouldn’t have appreciated this experience as I am right now. I wouldn’t have grown as I have and being deliberate with what I am doing or the direction of my career. So be amazing, develop yourself, add those skills, update your profiles and know that It will be so so amazing when you finally make it here because that will be RIGHT TIME for you to be here and you will love it. In the meantime GROW and SMILE.