A Snag in a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer’s Summer

Every year hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteers complete their service and return to their home expecting to start a new phase of their life. After that, they are forever Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Some may have hope of getting their dream job they needed two years of experience for or some may travel using their post-service readjustment allowance. Then there are some volunteers who return home ready to get their life going and reality knocks them down and says, “NO, it’s not that easy. You have more work to do.”

Peace Corps has a few beautiful things for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, the hefty readjustment allowance being one of them. Upon completion of your service, Peace Corps provides you with a very valuable Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) status. Basically, this status allows your application to go straight to the top of the pile when you are applying for jobs. The downside is that it only works with jobs that function under the government. And hold your horses, because you can’t really use this NCE until you actually graduate from your service.

As you approach the end of your service, you’ll find that Peace Corps doesn’t always get ahead of themselves with helping you plan your next step with Peace Corps. As frustrating as that is, realize it will probably be all on you. Don’t expect Peace Corps to spoon-feed you opportunities. Start looking for opportunities 6 months out. Start building resumes and cover letters too. And keep your eye out for what’s next. Remember, you will have 6 months until you actually accept a decent job, but at least you are manifesting the opportunities before they even physically get to you.
Not everyone wants to do a government job after they finish their service, even if the pay and benefits have a great deal of appeal. I really wanted to write and I thought my experience with Peace Corps would be enough to actually kick start my writing career. But it didn’t. I did not get handed a paid writing job. But I did get offered a job teaching English in China, as I said before in previous posts.

After my contract with the school in China fell through, I was back to square one: a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer looking for jobs and living with my parents (not a bad thing because I love them).

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I literally had to start from the bottom again, which meant getting hired for unpaid internships and working at a restaurant again to make money. I really didn’t want to do either one, but as my dad tells me, “sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to.”

I made promises to myself that I would never set foot in a restaurant again. I really thought the hard work I put in with Peace Corps deserved me a job that paid more than $20,000 a year. I thought that my skills deserved me something better than those sales agent companies just looking to pick up recent grads. *scoff* Nothing personal, but I just didn’t want any of that.

I’m here to tell you present and future volunteers. Set reasonable goals and don’t expect anything. Be positive, of course! But also be realistic about your goals. Your goals may change as you go through your service and that is totally ok too.

Peace Corps, despite only providing the NCE for government jobs, offers a slew of emails prior to your COS conference. These emails give you tons of information about jobs and ways to network yourself after Peace Corps.
I definitely don’t want you to make any mistakes after your service let alone waste time and money at home while you struggle to find a job that fits the life you want.

It is certainly best to be proactive and consider all options available before you become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I have been kicking myself in the butt for months because I didn’t even want to consider the possibilities of something other than teaching in China. I thought it was the only option available, believing that this was what would move me on into the next phase of my life. I so badly wanted to get paid and have a bunch of money that I didn’t even consider doing an unpaid writing internship. Obtaining a writing internship could very well be the thing that pushes me into the writing industry and I could’ve saved a lot of time and money had I sincerely considered that option prior to signing a contract with a school. I also should have listened to my dad.

That being said, I wouldn’t change anything that I have done so far or even where I am currently (a coffee shop in Florence, CO). I have picked up a writing internship with PRO MOTION and have since then published a handful of articles already and it feels better than all the time I spent trying to get back to China. I get to stay at home in Colorado (which I secretly wanted to do anyways) and I get to do what I love. A far better deal then I was dealt before, I think.

Oh, and follow your gut and intuition. Do what feels right and good.

From Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to present and potential volunteers. Don’t expect anything to happen immediately, overnight, or without work. Keep doing diligent work and consider all options because you will have gained valuable skills needed for jobs in the future.