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Author Topic: Will the experience be worth it?  (Read 4658 times)

Offline mtnguyen

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Will the experience be worth it?
« on: March 12, 2014, 03:02:25 PM »
This post is going to be a bit long, so I apologize. However, I want you to understand my situation completely in order for you to offer me your sound advice.

I am currently 24 years old and I have always wanted to volunteer for the Peace Corps since my first year as an undergrad student. However, I have always been very career focused as well and have always worked on progressing in my field. I studied Business Management as an undergrad and I am currently working on my MBA. On top of school, I have always been working as well and have been doing very well for myself professionally. My goal is to get into Project Management, get a PMP, and become a Project Manager in a well-known corporation (aiming for Deloitte) or with a government agency (aiming for the State Department) by the time I'm 30 years old. I plan to finish my MBA by the summer of 2015 and I know that with my experience and education, I can definitely fulfill my goal.

However, as I mentioned earlier, I have always wanted to volunteer for the Peace Corps as well. I had planned on doing it earlier (right after my undergrad), but since I also have always been focusing on developing my career, I never had the opportunity to since I was always working and had to keep pushing the Peace Corps back. Now, as I am working on finishing my MBA and will be 25 years old once I'm done it with next year, I know that if I want to do the Peace Corps, the only time to do it will be then. I don't want to wait any longer, nor do I want to do it when I'm older. If I am do it, I want to apply this year so that I can go next year after I complete my MBA. That way, once I'm done with the Peace Corps, I will be 27 or 28 years old. By then, I would still have a couple years to get into project management and fulfill my goal by the time I'm 30 years old.

I love to travel, live in rural areas, and immerse myself within the community. So, I'm not afraid of moving away for a couple years and leaving everything behind. I have been abroad numerous times and I understand the conditions. That is also not a fear of mine. My only concern is whether the experience within the Peace Corps will be worth it. If I do the Peace Corps, I plan to apply for a task that is business related-- I will be applying for a Community Economic Development position (http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/whatvol/busdev_01/). With this, I can still work on a position that relates to my field and will still give me the experience I need.

So basically, the reason that I want to apply for the Peace Corps is because I want to satisfy this need of mine to be a part of the Peace Corps, develop myself, gain some more international experience, and simply immerse myself in a culture that I would normally not be a part of. However, being away for two to three years is a long time that I could have used to grow my professional career. If I was to stay in the U.S., I know that I could have used those 2-3 years and really make something of myself professionally. If I leave for the Peace Corps and come back at around the age of 27 or 28, will that Peace Corps experience be enough for me to jump into the job market and be able to find a job within project management, or would I have to start over again and begin doing what I would have done right after obtaining my MBA? I know that I will be gaining some hands-on experience abroad through the Peace Corps, but is that experience enough to compensate for the experience that I would be gaining here in the U.S. if I continue on my path towards obtaining project management experience...? I feel as if the experience that I will be gaining here in the U.S. will be the experience that I need-- working on different tasks and consulting projects for various large companies-- while the experience that I will be gaining through the Peace Corps will be ones that are much smaller-- working and developing small community projects and events such as teaching the community how to use the computer or helping a small business learn to market itself.

Therefore, while I want to do the Peace Corps and I know that I'll have an incredible time and develop myself as a person, I also have a fear that that experience will not be enough to compensate for the three years that I could develop my career here in the U.S. If I stay here in the U.S., I would try to work for Deloitte in a project management role and develop myself to become a Sr. Level Project Manager. If I do the Peace Corps, I plan on coming back afterwards and applying for a project management position with the State Department using the non-competitive status that I would have for that year. Based on this, what is your recommendation that I do? Do you think the experience that I will gain through the Peace Corps will be enough to compensate for what I miss by leaving for 2-3 years? If so, what has your experience been like for when you return from the Peace Corps and how difficult or easy was it for you to get a job? Would I have to basically start over again?

Again, sorry for the extremely long, long post! Hopefully, you have the patience to read all of that as I desperately need some advice. Thanks!!

Offline koji

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2014, 01:54:36 AM »
It's hard to say whether or not you will be placed in a position that will advance your professional skills as much as you would like. I had a friend early terminate because his role in the peace corps did not challenge him or draw on his psych background as much as he would have liked, and he was much happier pursuing a career he had control of back home than staying to volunteer in the role he was placed in. Other volunteers greatly expanded their skills and were placed directly in their field. So, where you are placed will matter a lot, and you do not know what organization or type of work you will be doing until you have completed most of your in-country training.

That being said, having Peace Corps on your resume does look good, and I had several colleagues use their non-competitive status to find great jobs, so it can help you advance professional in the networking and resume-fodder way, even if your job related skills do not directly expand.

I know you said you don't want to do Peace Corps when you are older, but have you thought about the possibility of response corps after a few years of work experience? You may find a 3-6 month commitment that does not interfere too much with your career and draws on/increases your work skills. It seems they are opening more and more response corps positions to non-rpcvs who have the work experience.

Good luck :)

Offline Steve S

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 08:24:22 AM »
Doubt if any Peace Corps work will directly match your expectations as a "stepping stone" for a specific career trajectory. The State Department focus is common among some PCV's as is the highly paid management consulting, academic, NGO, and other less lucrative or challanging jobs. One PCV (B.A.) in my cohort who originally thought he would apply for a Fulbright upon completion of his service instead was accepted by Deloitte although don't know what RPCV effect was? The State Department may like your PCV experience also, but the work itself will probably not add much other than language skills to your score. Motivations often change after you exit the student mode so generalizations about "worth it" are pretty worthless.
Steve

Offline mtnguyen

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 02:54:59 PM »
Thanks for the advice! It really helps. Doing the Peace Corps has always been a goal/dream of mine and it was something I was set on doing. I am very focused and career-driven, which is why I had some doubt since I would be losing 2-3 years of experience in my career. This is something that I need to do now when I'm still young and have the opportunity to do it. When I'm older, it'll be harder when I have a family and in a higher position within my career. I would deeply regret it in the future if I didn't do it now. Also, I will have plenty of time to focus on my career once I'm back.

The only thing that is disappointing to hear is that it may be difficult for me to be placed exactly in a position that relates to Business or the professional skills that I'm looking for. However, even if it doesn't, I will still gain some life experience from it and will still be able to accomplish a personal goal of mine. So, I will apply and hopefully can go next year. Thanks for the encouragement and advice! That's just what I needed to destroy any doubt I had.

Offline the boss

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 03:45:32 PM »
You are very focused on your goal of starting a career in a particular field – nothing wrong with that, but my thought is that the Peace Corps will open up whole new ideas of places to work and careers to embark on. 
 
Another thing…  even if you are not placed in a job doing exactly what you want, it still means a lot to most employers who know about the Peace Corps.   

If I had been in the Peace Corps when I was a young man like you are, my life would have been completely different I am sure.  I had no idea there were so many wonderful careers available that would give you the opportunity to live abroad.

Good luck…

Offline RetiredFed

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2014, 04:40:11 AM »
You will never be this free again in your life.  It will happen very fast - a spouse, a kid, another kid, a mortgage, a car, insurance for all that.  You will be wrapped with chains in just a few short years and one day you will ask yourself "whatever happened to my one great adventure? Wasn't I going to break out of the mold and go somewhere totally different, wasn't I going to become a new version of myself?"  Your career is such a self-centered endevour.  Break out. Learn two or three new languages.  Become a citizen of the world - not wall street.

Offline RPCVro

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2014, 07:21:01 PM »
Just an FYI, "ok" assignments versus "great" assignments can be a matter of timing. The same sector does not depart on a monthly basis. CED is a small percentage of Peace Corps assignments, and if you're too set on leaving in a month when there aren't much, if any, CED programs departing...you're less likely to get a good match. I imagine you'll be finishing school in May. While the current postings on the website don't show programs departing next May/June/July, the CED programs currently posted leave mostly in September and March. Once the summer months start posting on the interactive map, be sure to check out which countries will have a CED program departing in the month you desire (if there are any), and reach out to a recruiter about the specific qualifications those countries are looking to have in their volunteers. For example, most South American programs will require a certain level of Spanish fluency. Even a few African countries will have a French fluency requirement.

Regardless of where you're invited and what kind of assignment you're given after training, a lot of what you do can be determined by you. Outside of your obligations to your host community/organization, you can build relationships and develop projects that advance development as well as match your interests. For example, I knew a RPCV from Ukraine who worked with youth development, but she also had prior experience with advertising. She managed to make connections and worked on projects to advertise the Euro Cup 2012 when it was hosted in Ukraine, and used that experience to land advertising jobs when she got back.

These days, Peace Corps actually cares greatly about whether or not Peace Corps is/can be part of your career trajectory, since a combined lack of pay and lack of relevant work can lead to people dropping out (as in the example above).

And let me reiterate what others have said. Peace Corps is often a life-altering experience. Once you've started achieving all those things on your professional goal list, will you really want to take a break in the middle? A million different things can happen over the years. What do you want more? An adventure and incredible experience that just might re-shape your view of the world? Or keeping to your strict timeline (salary and status)?

Offline wreloise

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2014, 02:34:00 PM »
Nicely written.  Thank you.
Eloise-Born to Serve

Offline Adam

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Re: Will the experience be worth it?
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2017, 08:13:02 AM »
So what'd you end up doing?
http://AdamGreenberg.com is the official website of some guy by the same name.