The Peace Corps Led to a Great Job

peace corpCan serving the world lead to a great job? Yes it can!

In my last post, I talked about how volunteer work with federal organizations such as the Peace Corps or VISTA can help you gain job skills and contacts that will land you a job afterward, even in this tough economy.

Todd Valdini provides a good example of how to make it all work.

Valdini graduated a few years ago with an English degree and took a job as a paralegal in a law firm. He enjoyed the job and found it challenging enough, but it was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

"It took four years to finally cut my ties with the 'real world' and return to school. I chose a degree in linguistics because that was something I knew would challenge me intellectually," he says. But he wasn't sure what he would do with that degree once he had it.

"I had been involved in volunteer activities on campus and was looking for additional ways to extend my service to others," he says. "And I was not ignorant of the fact that successful Peace Corps service can open up career doors. The agency's high brand-name recognition tends to jump out on a resume."

Additionally, his future wife was interested in having an overseas volunteer experience, too. So they decided to join the Peace Corps together.

The two taught English at Guizhou Normal University in Guiyang, Guizhou, China. "My students ranged anywhere from high school juniors to continuing education adults," he says. He taught English conversation and writing, college research and composition, and American culture. "In addition to the normal workload, my wife and I organized girls and boys clubs (respectively) and an American film club."

When Valdini and his wife returned to the U.S. they tapped in to the job hunting network, both formal and informal, that working for the Peace Corps provides. For starters, he attended a career conference for returned Peace Corps volunteers in Washington, DC.

"The conference not only provided excellent, practical advice for job seekers, but also tapped [me] into a diverse network of NGOs, federal agencies and like-minded altruists," he says. He "papered" the job fair with his résumé and gave his elevator pitch at nearly every booth.

Within a week the Social Security Administration had offered him an interview via e-mail and eventually that's where he landed a job. "I consider myself lucky to have landed my current position with SSA, but I also know that exercising my contacts and calling on past PC colleagues for recommendations helped tremendously," he says.

Valdini works as a management analyst for the SSA. He says both the job skills he obtained in the Peace Corps and the reputation of Peace Corps workers helped him get the job. His teaching experience in China fits in with a major project he is assigned to in the Training & Human Resources division.

But more importantly, Valdini says his managers are impressed with how former Peace Corps workers can handle anything thrown at them.

"We require little oversight and we get thrown some of the craziest assignments," he says. "My supervisors know that we are very resourceful and we don't back away from a challenge." And Valdini says the Social Security Administration plans on hiring many more returned Peace Corps volunteers because of that faith in their work.

Valdini says you should start the Peace Corp. application process a year in advance of wanting to join. Because of the sour economy, the number of applications has soared, and it could take that long before you are accepted.

You sign up with the Peace Corp. for 27 months and can spend most of that time in some very primitive conditions. Volunteers help communities in other countries with everything from developing safe drinking water supplies to learning modern business practices. The benefits include health care, student loan deferments, job search resources and a chunk of cash at the end of your stint.

He cautions, "Peace Corps is not an easy twenty-seven months. Those expecting a vacation need not apply."

You'll most likely come out knowing a new language and will become an expert on a particular corner of the world. "And yes, you will have a bevy of great stories with which to regale your friends and family," he says, "but not without having first made some sacrifices." Valdini says he had to "put ego, pride, nationalism, cultural preconceptions and the conveniences of home that we take for granted in check for two years."

"It's not an easy thing to do," he admits. "But you will be a stronger, better person for having shed those layers of identity and seen the world from a different perspective."

Next: Troy Tillis: How Volunteering Landed Me a Job >>

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To LaChicaC:

Sorry for my English. Its only my 3rd!!! Language. How many foreign languages do you write in???? The answer is "NONE". Ask me how i know. Small businesses and their emploees pay lion share of all taxes. The top 1% pays almost 40% of FEDERAL INCOME TAX. Not ALL taxes. Its 29% of ALL taxes. Wall Street people are a minority in that top 1%. Neither GM nor Wall Street Companies are "Private Corporations". They are publicly traded companies. And yes, neither pay taxes, but thats a different story. Read up, challenge and educate yourself and start to write in a foreign language, i would love to see that!

February 15 2010 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here is the math:

Put together Federal, State and local government emploees and you will get more people than in private sector.

Average salary in government is around $73,000. In private industry its around $45,000. We know who's productivity is higher.

We pay 12.5% social security tax, they do not. They have a real retirement plan that is not broke unlike Sosial Security. Their plan is guaranteed by the taxpayers. Our plan is broke. Vacations......every freaking holiday.....that we work, like today, they do plans.....etc...

To pay for 1 government worker we need a tax revenue from at least 7 people. So there should be 7 times more of us than them. That is if we want to just to pay for them without any welfare, or other programs to buy votes.

The problem is that there is more receipients than contributors. Today, there is more governmental workers than private industry workers. So where is the difference, that covers for all the government workers is comming from??? I know of 3 sources.

1.China and such. And you know where this leads to.

2.Printing more of US currency. And you know where this leads to.
3.The defficit or a sale of a future productivity of future generations. And you know where this leads to.

What a great picture.

February 15 2010 at 11:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For all you "do-gooders" who think you are going to "save the freakin' world", let me tell you a couple of interesting FACTS.
Here, in America, we have millions of children who go to bed every damn night - hungry. We have millions of kids who never graduated from high school. We have millions of adults who a unemployed with little hope of EVER getting a job again. We have thousands of veterans who are homeless, and mentally ill.
So, if you bleeding-hearts, need a cause, to make you feel good about yourself - volunteer here in America, to help some Americans. I did and still do, and it feels GREAT !

February 15 2010 at 5:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to AnimalLoverForever's comment
Sharon Bearden

Well I am not a "do gooder" as you say. My going to the Peace Corps was to help in the field that I was trained in. I was not there to feed "starving children", and as far as that goes, here in America there are ways of feeding, clothing and taking care of's called orphanages, food stamps, food banks, and food kitchens, so don't give me any crap about the Peace Corps being there to help kids, except in education and in America All kids can get an education if they want one. It's called financial aid or for free Pell grants!

February 23 2010 at 6:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah and don't forget about the obesity rates. Why will close to half the nation be obese by 2030? For every one child that is suffering from obesity, five or six are obese-truth, I have studied this in our schools for the last decade!

May 24 2012 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sharon Bearden

All the Peace Corps did for me was cost me time and money that I could have spent on something constructive. Peace Corps are a joke..after you leave an area they go back to doing whatever they were being helped for. Plus you get the upside with kidnappers when you join!

February 15 2010 at 5:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do US Taxpayers pay people to go into the Peace Corps? Do we pay people to go to another country "help" the poor people survive in greater numbers, who then in turn have more kids (usually 3 or greater for those in poverty), so that the son of the guy in the Peace Corps can eventually join the same group, go to the same country, and now have 3 times as many people to help. I will help those who agree to get their tubes tied, vasectomy etc, so I can actually reduce the problem over time, rather than what this guy did and simply increase the likelihood of a greater population of those impoverished in that region in the future. MY idea of Peace Corps is going over there and say "WTF are you peeps starving and somehow finding a way to have intercourse increasing the problem for me." IF you people are going to just produce with no money, not caring for your children to do that, why am I going to help you.

February 15 2010 at 4:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peter's comment

Peace Corps' third goal encourages volunteers to share their experiences with Americans back home. Why? In the hopes of one day spreading tolerance and understanding, that which Mr. Peter seems to lack. You cannot honestly say you understand the trials and tribulations of people who live in developing countries until you yourself have lived it. We have astounding resources and opportunities in the United States, and in this globalized society, Peace Corps is just one way Americans can give back to the World and to those who have not been as fortunate, meanwhile gaining important skills that enrich the American workplace. Peace Corps represents the very best of Americans abroad. And if you want to continue complaining about where your tax money is going, please note that Peace Corps has the smallest budget among federally funded international development organizations. Volunteers make real, sustainable differences in underprivileged communities for less than $200 a month. What are you doing to make this world a better place for all?

February 16 2014 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This part says it all. "he says, "but not without having first made some sacrifices." Valdini says he had to "put ego, pride, nationalism.....".

So you threw away the values of freedom, liberty, especially the notion of rights, along with any national loyalty, and then come back and work for the SSA. No doubt fit right in given the current political climate. No secret that lefties hire lefties and the Peace Corp has been one of their puppies for many a decade. Try getting a job at the SSA as a known outspoken conservative. I'm still trying to figure out just what part of working for communist countries and third world nations does to provide you with the credentials to work in a first world nation outside of government. We all know the realities of where foreign aid goes when the afflicted area's true affliction is either communists or the latest warlord. Short of having a track record of maybe stopped a communist incursion, or at least instrumental in such, I see no benefit.

February 15 2010 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I did Peace Corps in Yemen 1992 - 1992 best decision I ever WOW what a experience.

February 15 2010 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

eowyn said that "[Peace Corps] Volunteers may not be soldiers, and it's true, we don't risk as much as them, but we deserve more credit then we get." Very true, but Retired Teacher said it best "Serving a Peace Corps stint can serve to mature some very immature, good-hearted young people. Learning that not everyone has what the USA takes for granted will either "make a man" out of you, or you can call yourself a wimp for the rest of your life." (RT - I take you've been there, done that?) So, before you go condemning Peace Corps Volunteers, consider this:
I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960's (a thousand years ago in 21st Century terms.) I come from a small farming community in south-central Pennsylvania where only 5 of the 63 people in my high school class went to college. Joining the Peace Corps was considered crazy and maybe even un-American, but it turned out to be one of the smartest things I've ever done. Quite simply, it has influenced the rest of my life. I spent 2 years teaching English as a second language in North Africa -- Arab countries where people got to know real Americans, not posturing politicians. I then worked for Peace Corps in Washington for 2 years. (Public trough? -- Not at what I was being paid!) I married a fellow Volunteer, did a Master's in linguistics to nail down what I'd done overseas, went to law school and practiced international transactional law for 20 years for major corporations (nice ones...!) And guess what? I knew how to work together on a business deal with people from other cultures and could actually negotiate contracts in 3 languages. My husband, who's an architect, and I spent two years back in North Africa because we were asked to open and run an office for a major U.S. architectural firm. Why? Because we knew the territory and spoke both French and Arabic. (Still do, for that matter, although the Arabic is a bit rusty.) My husband then spent 20 years as a consultant to a major international aid organization (no big paychecks there, either) and designed and built much-needed schools and hospitals in developing countries.
Our kids grew up loving this country but respecting people from other cultures. And before anyone assumes I usually ride an anti-military horse, please note that our oldest is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and made Commander at 36. (That's Lt. Colonel to you non-Navy types.) I am one proud mama!
And what about now? I've retired from law, but teach English to international students and am very involved in the Mission Committee of my church, where I am also an officer. (See? We actually do go to church! I have always felt connected to my small-town roots) My husband is also retired, but is a volunteer architect for the expansion of one of the few working hospitals in Haiti.
And all of that, folks, is only a very small part of what the Peace Corps has done for me!

February 15 2010 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the Peace Corps, Teach for America, VISTA and all those other government run programs are a total waste of taxpayers' money. The people I know who ended up "volunteering" (technically they are paid w/benefits so they don't really volunteer) were usually the people who couldn't find real jobs. How about letting people who want to "volunteer" in Third World countries actually volunteer without taxpayer assistance? I think I'm better suited to spend my money than those idiots in Washington. Oh, and by the way, the staffing offices for Peace Corps and all the other "volunteer" organizations is HUGE!

February 14 2010 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i have no idea what the asians(china) give yall,but it has got to be real good,because allllllll yall women too, LOVE the helll out of it.could it have anything to do with the BILLION people they are suppose to have?

February 14 2010 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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