I’ve been a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer for three months. I’ve applied to dozens of jobs, edited and re-edited my resume, and crafted far too many passionate cover letters. There are several reasons that this weighs on me, but I think the biggest frustration is that I don’t think people understand exactly what having Peace Corps experience on your resume really means. How can one even condense the experience into a concise cover letter? I have yet to receive even a single interview, but if I did, here is what I’d say…
1. Do you have enough experience? We’re looking for someone with more experience…
For the past two years, my client base was the city of over 700,000 people who wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was one of the only native English speakers in a fifty-mile radius. Once they found out that I was a writer, the work came to me. I’ve edited countless student essays, tutored adults in grammar and syntax as they prepared for various English examinations. I’ve re-branded awkward businesses and provided new English language marketing strategies while explaining why their previous business names/slogans were less than ideal. (Anyone remember “Thumb Kindergarten”?)
I’ve created advertising copy for my school, filling brochures and writing up letters to various organizations. I’ve edited signage and translated material. If the street signs have proper English translations in my city, it could be credited to me.
2. We’re looking for someone who already knows the ropes…
If there’s something I don’t already know, I’m such a fast learner. I’m incredibly independent. I was dropped off in a part of China where locals speak an almost impenetrable dialect—I figured it out, I survived. I learned to read, write and speak Chinese. I wasn’t a teacher, and then suddenly I was. Not only did I do the work, I did it successfully. When I started teaching, almost half the student body simply didn’t attend. By the time I finished, my attendance ratings were high and my students were working harder than they had in previous years. True, this is teaching experience and not quite the same as what you’re looking for. It all just seems so easy to me, though. After having been through what I’ve experienced, the idea of having to learn my way around some new software feels almost laughably easy.
3. We need someone who is flexible, and who exhibits grace under pressure.
You’re looking at the girl who sang a duet in front of hundreds of Communist Party bigwigs even though she has a deep fear of singing in front of other people. I do what needs to be done, and I do it well.
I’m the girl who got out of bed in the middle of winter to shower in an unheated house, teach in an unheated classroom—all while suffering with bouts of giardia. Do you know what giardia is? Intense stomach pain caused by a parasite found in unsafe drinking water. It’s the definition of unpleasant, and I still performed. You want to know if I’ll be there during those crappy Buffalo snow days? I’ll be there, guaranteed. I’ll do the work, I’ll move my schedule around, I’ll do it.
4. This position requires creativity and new ideas, can you bring it?
Yes, yes! I single-handedly managed to whip up new and exciting educational ideas each week for the hundreds of bored and motivationally-challenged teenage boys in my classroom. I’m able to work with a client’s specific needs, even if they don’t match my own. I can write under pressure, I can create content like nobody’s business. Each week I was creating content for various classes, clubs and community events while also maintaining my blog.
5. What’s your biggest weakness?
Maybe it’s my “lack of experience”. I never had the financial stability to hold down an internship. I was working full-time straight out of college—long hours of waitressing in order to manage my student debt. I had to save my money for two years in order to even dream of applying for the Peace Corps. I didn’t have the luxury of searching for a job in my field back when I graduated. I don’t come from a family background that provides me with many connections. I’m catching up on all of that now, and I’m eager to show you the talent that’s currently languishing. Don’t ruin a good thing. Hire me. My “lack of experience” is going to blow you away.
This year we received a record high number of applications, 17,336 to be exact! Every prospective, current and returned Volunteer didn’t start their sentence with “I should’ve,” they started it with “I did.” Life is calling. How far will you go?
“Ultimately, I think a map project truly is a collaboration of geography, art, community and advocacy. I love letting kids from Birmingham know that another kid from Alabama was able to experience another culture. In a small but significant way our group is continuing our Peace Corps service.”
Being in the Peace Corps was one of the best things I could have done to prepare for becoming an entrepreneur, especially a social entrepreneur. Successful Volunteers are, in many ways, entrepreneurs: You learn how to do a lot with few resources, how to jump into a vague situation and create change, how to recognize opportunities, and how to build something out of nothing. I learned firsthand how powerful business can be in creating social change for women.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Siiri Morley, executive director of Prosperity Catalyst, who launched a program in Haiti that provides direct support, mentorship, and training to women as they start candle-making businesses
In honor of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the world’s largest gathering of volunteers, we challenged returned Volunteers to sum up their service experience in just six words and share on Twitter and Instagram.
#MyServiceIn6 submissions were funny, inspiring and genuinely moving. The word cloud highlights the most frequently used words.
Happy Thanksgiving! We are thankful for current Volunteers, returned Volunteers, Peace Corps staff, host country nationals and so many more for the work they do to promote our mission: To promote world peace and friendship. Who are you thankful for? #PCFamily