Leveraging the Peace Corps
Q. Hello Nick,
I found your blog while doing some extensive research on career options as an international development aid worker (or anything of the sort). Its helping me narrow down my options and I would like to thank you.
My name is Angela and I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Namibia (South- West Africa). My tour ends in about 9 months and I need some advice on how to obtain a job working in the humanitarian field; I have a ton of interests ranging from Foreign Service to non-profit work to the United Nations, however, I am certain that I would like my concentration to be focused on Africa.
Do you have any ideas on how I can go about looking for grad schools (domestic and international) and careers paths I could look into to get my dream job?
Thanks in advance!
P.S. I also like to blog about my time in Namibia thus far and I would be extremely grateful if you checked it out! Its http://www.sabblahsblog.weebly.com.
A. Hi Angela,
Thanks for the comments and the question – your blog looks great! So – let’s cut to the chase – if you’ve read my blog then you know my opinion on grad-school! There’s a proper post on this, but the TL:DR is: Don’t go to grad school until you have a couple of years of experience under your belt. Especially don’t go to grad school until you know whether you want to work in the FS, the UN, or a nonprofit, or what you want to do in ‘Africa’.
Grad-school is expensive, time consuming, and won’t help you get your first job. It might give you some great skills and contacts down the road that will help you mid-career.
My advice? First: While you’re in Namibia, network like a thing possessed. Work out what NGOs and UN agencies are in the country (or the region if you’re really dedicated), and use every opportunity you can to make yourself useful and known to them. You should be using LinkedIn and in-person connections, and building a network of people who can vouch for your work and consider hiring you when you leave.
Second: Don’t take your ticket home. Stay in Namibia, or somewhere else that you think has organizations that might hire you. Your chances of getting hired there are much greater than if you’re applying from the US!
Good luck, let us know how you do!