Yes, you read that right: should not. Peace Corps used to have a saying: “At Peace Corps we are practical idealists.” Those kind of crazy ideas make Returned Peace Corps Volunteers terrible employees. Here are a few reasons why hiring a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer will ruin your business.
1. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) question the status quo. Business as usual is exactly what a PCV is trained to rebel against. We are indoctrinated to look for the status quo and squash it. The status quo is what keeps developing countries from developing. Let’s keep farming the exact same way we’ve done it for hundreds of years, if it has worked that long, it can’t be wrong, right? False. Cashew farmers in Ghana were just given cashew trees when the great drought of the 1980s destroyed all the cocoa. They’ve continued farming the same way, because it works. But we taught them that simple changes can triple their yield. They can keep chugging along with the status quo and it won’t affect them, but adopting our changes would propel them forward. Businesses shouldn’t hire a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer if they want to maintain a status quo. If you want someone to help you find ways you can improve, you should hire an RPCV.
2. RPCVs over-communicate. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you have to translate almost everything on a daily basis: at the market, getting a taxi, chatting with locals, yelling at the small girls to fetch water, or chasing chickens. During training events, you might even need to translate into multiple languages with a translator. You learn quickly that communication is at the heart of all problems. So you over-communicate. You learn the varying levels of explanation you will need for any project: high level government jargon to send back to Peace Corps, local level negotiations, basic training language, translator friendly speak, or acronym alphabet. You can say “farmers should keep records” 10 different ways and in multiple languages. So RPCVs over-communicate, we are used to words being our only tools. Businesses shouldn’t hire an RPCV if they want employees to keep quiet. If you want someone who will not fear communication, you should hire an RPCV.
3. RPCVs have a different concept of what is “important.” Try going one day without something you rely on – your cell phone, laptop, electricity, flushing toilets. Suddenly those items become incredibly important. Try spending two years experiencing terrible roads in beat up mini-buses, torrential rains that shut down all plans for three months, or watching the kids dig through your trash for free stuff. Then evaluate what’s important. Arbitrary deadlines = not important. Being five minutes late to work = not important. Coming into work when you are sick = definitely not important. Businesses shouldn’t hire an RPCV if they want employees to adhere to arbitrary rules and work inside the box. If you want someone to do real, meaningful work and do it well, you should hire an RPCV.
4. RPCVs are cheapskates. When you make $150/month and inflation is going up every few days, you learn to pinch every penny. You’ll negotiate for an extra carrot or an extra ladle of soup. You will fight taxi drivers until you are blue in the face for them to reduce their fare by just a few cents. You don’t waste money, because you can’t. When you do decide to splurge, you go out and buy a beer, but you’ll walk an extra 20 minutes to go to the cheaper bar. A recycle bin at work triggers an RPCV to think “my neighbors would’ve begged me for this much paper – think of all the toilet paper that could be!” Saving money and squirreling it away is just in an RPCV’s DNA. Businesses shouldn’t hire an RPCV if they want to continue wasting money. If you want someone who will save your company money by finding ways to cut back efficiently, you should hire an RPCV.
Change is hard, but go ahead, give it a try, hire a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
RPCVs, are there any reasons I missed? What would you add?