This is a guest post by Shannon Kendrick, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Peace Corps.
South Sioux City, Nebraska. Nashville, Tennessee. Chicago. Los Angeles. What do each of these cities have in common? As Employers of National Service, each recognizes the value that volunteers bring to the workplace — once they’ve returned from their time in the Peace Corps.
As they prepare to return to the United States after their time overseas, many returned Peace Corps volunteers are looking to apply the skills they learned to careers in communities here at home. Whether we’re talking about the biology teacher who served in Mozambique, or the business development advisor just returning from the Dominican Republic, here are five reasons why local governments should hire returned Peace Corps volunteers:
- They’re passionate about mission-driven work.
Americans join the Peace Corps for a variety of reasons, but what they all have in common is their drive to make meaningful impact. Along with newly-acquired dance skills, languages and cultural understanding, returned Peace Corps volunteers bring home this commitment to contributing to a greater cause. Many volunteers gravitate to careers in public service because they know what it means to feel connected to a strong mission and what it takes to commit to bettering the lives of those around them.
- They’re experts at working with limited resources.
Peace Corps’ grassroots model teaches volunteers to work with their communities to identify ways to leverage existing assets to achieve their development goals. Give a volunteer a cereal box and they’ll turn it into a literacy teaching tool and use the scraps to teach their students how to compost. Returned volunteers won’t shy away from a smaller budget or a tough fiscal estimate — they’ve learned to see resource challenge as opportunities for innovation, creative problem-solving and collaboration.
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- They speak your language.
In their 27 months of Peace Corps service, many volunteers learn to speak another language. But beyond the linguistic skills they gain, living and working in a new culture also teaches them to communicate across cultural boundaries. They learn to listen between the lines — to assess power structure, to respect and relate to others, to hear what people really hope for in their communities. They know how to liaise with organizations across sectors so that partnership is productive for everyone involved. So while knowing how to ask “Where’s the nearest bus stop?” in Senegalese Wolof may not be quite as crucial once volunteers are stateside, their knack for communicating with the diverse communities of America’s towns and cities certainly will be invaluable to their future employers.
- They aren’t afraid of a little red tape.
Peace Corps partners with local and national government agencies in countries around the world to help achieve the development goals those countries identify. And whether it’s a village council in Lesotho or a regional ministry in the Pacific Islands, it wouldn’t be government without a healthy dose of processes and bureaucracy. Peace Corps volunteers may have learned how to follow protocol when addressing a room full of public officials. They may have helped their local farmer’s group navigate the provincial system to register as a cooperative. They may have even partnered with the municipality to build a new health clinic in their community. Regardless of the projects they led and implemented while abroad, you can bet that returned volunteers have dealt with their fair share of red tape. When they return home, our volunteers bring back that sense of flexibility. In fact, it’s often touted as their most valuable asset!
- They invest in their communities.
During their service, our volunteers commit fully to community-driven development, and it’s both clichéd and accurate to say that Peace Corps service is a 24/7 job. volunteers know that the work doesn’t stop when the clinic closes or when the school bell rings at the end of the day. Talking with and learning from their community members is often where the real work happens. Hearing their neighbors’ stories helps them to learn what their needs are and understand where they can be most helpful. volunteers know that connecting to their communities goes well beyond their primary job titles. It’s no surprise that returned Peace Corps volunteers volunteer at a rate twice that of the average American. They bring back not only a deep-rooted commitment to community but also a profound desire to make things work better for everyone—as employees, as neighbors, and as citizens.
So there you have it. If you’re looking for Americans with fresh ideas who know how to stretch a small budget, dream up creative solutions to your challenges, and make lasting, meaningful impact, it’s simple: hire returned Peace Corps volunteers.
Community leaders looking to hire qualified individuals from the returned volunteer community can do so by posting position openings on the Peace Corps’ Career Link.
We would love to hear from you how Peace Corps can continue to foster and strengthen partnerships with your cities and communities. To reach the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs, email firstname.lastname@example.org — we welcome your ideas and suggestions.
About the Author: Shannon Kendrick is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Peace Corps, which sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development.
Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 230,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.