Four Reasons Why You Should NOT Hire a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

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?


34 thoughts on “Four Reasons Why You Should NOT Hire a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

  1. Love This! What about not hiring an RPCV if you want someone over qualified for the job? If an RPCV runs into a snag in an unfamiliar area, they will work until they get an answer. We are not afraid to ask for help to get the job done…it doesn’t have to be all our work, we’re team players and share kudos. We will ask locals and other RPCVs (an extensive network) for help in their area of expertise. We will dig around the Internet. We seek out obscure resources, i.e. village chief, to find ways to do something unfamiliar. We persist until we find something that does work. We self-educate. We work in areas outside our scope of training. “It’s not in my skill set” does not apply,

    • Kathy,

      I love your additions! I think you have a great point. I agree with your assessment of our incredible resourcefulness. Often people would ask me, how did you make this happen?! I would just respond with “I know a guy.” No is not final, there is always an alternative way or means of doing something. You’ve just gotta dig a little deeper.

      I agree – “it’s not in my skill set” turns into “it’s not in my skill set, yet.”

  2. I wish more people could see this post…after a year I am still unemployed. Thank you for spreading the word!

  3. Pingback: Four Reasons Why You Should NOT Hire a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer | Bulgaria Stories

  4. This is the first time I have read this and LOVED it. It seems we need more RPCV in the USA to help us get over ourselves. (of course I am making coffee with a new coffee maker with a built in grinder and a gold filter). Is it important not compared to many things, rather not drink coffe at all if it is bad coffee. OK i regress. My first thought is we need to vote all the RPCV into government positions. They could figure the budget, where the waste are, who really needs a helping hand. They already know how to speak multiple lanquages, know how to work together, think outside of the box and the biggest problem many many people have (me included) how to communicate!! Please RPCV run for the presidency!!

  5. Reblogged this on pceyouthandfamilies and commented:
    This is especially for you 108ers but honestly it easily goes for all of us. Remember that the skills and techniques you use here in your PC experience really are a commodity and will help you in future jobs. Don’t dismiss the little things!

  6. To an African like me, this article is just a corky-self-righteous recitation from another sanctimonious American.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way. I can see how my sarcastic tone can come across as self-righteous; however, it is not meant to demean. Americans who serve in the Peace Corps share a common experience upon returning to the United States. Our experiences often make it difficult for us to reassimilate to our native culture, as it is difficult for anyone who has lived abroad for a number of years to return to their home country. My blog’s purpose is not diminish the people or life in any Peace Corps host country, but to share experiences so that Americans can better understand Peace Corps Volunteers and the people of our host countries.

  7. This is well written and sums up a lot of things accurately. I heard an NPR piece talking about a volunteer organization that provides tech support and code writing for local government in the U.S. and compared it to “Peace Corps.” Other than providing technical skills and volunteering … it was nothing like the Peace Corps. Seems to me that the general public still has a very vague understanding of what Peace Corps is really like, despite all the books and all the RPCVs supposedly practicing the third goal. I guess part of the problem is when you, as a volunteer, try to tell anyone about your service they can’t comprehend it. Their eyes glaze over. Because here in the United States, a hardship for most people is not being able to get Starbucks coffee (or insert whatever convenience that people confuse with being a need) and can not even fathom the way Peace Corps volunteers live and work – plus they don’t understand that the hard part of Peace Corps is not living without running water, or other modern conveniences – the hard part is cross cultural stuff – and trying to get things done with no resources – and trying to accept that in third world countries things happen that are totally avoidable in the U.S. – like people dying of things that they wouldn’t die from in the U.S. Anyway, it floors me that I have been having such trouble finding a job here in the U.S., when I’ve done something that is a hundred times more challenging than any of these jobs I’ve applied for would be, yet I’ve received rejection after rejection.

  8. Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better!
    Reading through this article reminds me of my previous
    roommate! He continually kept talking about this.
    I most certainly will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good
    read. Thank you for sharing!

  9. 5. RPCV embrace scope creep.

    As a PCV with a nomination in secondary level math and science teacher, I spent much of my time building and running a computer lab and renovating the maternity ward at the local health clinic…in addition to the work out into my assigned primary objective of teaching biology. If you want an employee who works only within their assigned scope of work, don’t hire an RPCV. If you want someone who will fulfill their scope of work while assessing and addressing other pressing issues, hire an RPCV.

  10. Pingback: 2014: And I went from this to that and this again | Adventures

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