One of the questions you get as a Volunteer who is on her way out (as of today, I return to the US in 38 days) is “what are you doing to do next/where are you going now?”
It is not a question that most of us love.
This is a topic that came up at the Close of Service Conference (which was already almost three weeks ago!) – Peace Corps Volunteers don’t particularly like being asked this question because most of the time, we just don’t know. Some of us are going on to return to school for graduate studies (not me, as that was done a long time ago, unless I want a THIRD grad degree, and I am thinking no). Some of us are planning extended trips (anywhere from two weeks to three months) – that is another option that I decided to pass on, because I wanted to save my money for relocating and tiding me over while I conducted a job search.
Few of us have jobs lined up.
It is not unrealistic, that we don’t have employers waiting for us. After all, we are still in Ukraine, with anywhere from a month to nearly two months before we return to the US, and most employers who are looking to hire are looking to hire NOW, not a month or two in the future.
This is a concept that a few people here seem to have a hard time understanding. One person has been asking me since last fall if I have a job yet. I could not seem to get her to understand that most companies in the US do not hire nine months in advance. The government may TAKE nine months (or longer) to hire for a position, but I have not seen any company or organization that says to someone, “Hey, I’ll hire you next summer. Here’s your offer letter, see you then”, especially with the logistics of us being here, and companies being there.
This not knowing what is next, especially for those of us who are planning to relocate, is a rather stressful thing. Friends of mine are starting to ask for input on resumes, I have personally been sending out resumes and trying to widen my network where I want to live for a couple of months. I have been assured that all will change and that doors will open when I am physically IN the city of my choosing. I wonder.
At the conference, our Country Director suggested that we look at Peace Corps Response as a potential next step. At the time he said it, the words kind of went over my head and I did not pay much attention. Then I got home and opened the package we were given, and one of the top pages is about Peace Corps Response. Deciding that it could not hurt me to LOOK at what positions are available, I did so, and ended up applying for more than one.
I was surprised to receive an e-mail the very next day, from a recruiter who wanted to interview me for the position. Part of me was excited, and part of me was thinking “well, it is not the one I REALLY wanted, but I guess I’ll interview for it”. I also wondered why I did not hear from the other two for which I applied, because I KNEW I was qualified for them.
Turns out, there are a small number of people who are recruiters for the Peace Corps Response (PCR) positions, and they all know each other, and they have a pact to not interview a person that another recruiter is interviewing – no poaching, in other words. According to her, my resume/application was quite popular in the office (at least SOMEONE finds me qualified!).
A side note – what exactly is Peace Corps Response and how is it different from Peace Corps? It is pretty straightforward:
- PCR volunteers are usually Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and are always seasoned professionals. Peace Corps Response does not take people right out of college, as Peace Corps does. (This is not to criticize, merely stating facts). Some PCR positions are open to people who are not RPCVs – this is new.
- PCR positions are more defined than regular PC positions – it is a specific organization that approaches PC and asks for a volunteer with a specific skill set to do a specific thing. Usually PC positions (like mine) are not as defined, and you have to kind of make stuff up as you go.
- PCR positions are for a shorter time frame, rather than two years of PC. The positions for which I applied ranged from six to nine months.
However, even though the programs are different, PCR volunteers are expected to follow Peace Corps’ policies, have the trip to and from the country paid for and receive a small living allowance every month.
After discussing my experience with the recruiter and asking her some questions, she told me she believed I was a strong candidate, and sent me reference requests, as well as updated legal and medical questionnaires.
The good news is, I have not gotten into any legal trouble here, and am still healthy. She said she would try to get my application processed as a transfer, which would make paperwork (and the medical clearance) faster and easier than if they closed my file after I close my service, and then start it up again.
Now the only question was – would they be okay with the starting date I suggested? I told her that even though I end my service here on May 18, I cannot go any sooner than after June 11, as I made a promise to a very special someone to be around for her high school graduation on June 10.
Yesterday, I got the e-mail that my later start date was okay, and in fact they bumped it out even further.
In short, I have been invited to serve as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Suriname for six months, starting this July. I guess I will have to change the name of my blog!