Thanks to the ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974-77) First published on the peacecorps.gov website.
4 reasons you should not hire a returned Peace Corps Volunteer
By Caitlin Bauer (Ghana 2011-13)
Yes, you read that right: should not.
The Peace Corps used to have a saying: “At Peace Corps we are practical idealists.” Those kind of crazy ideas make returned Peace Corps Volunteers terrible employees. Here are a few reasons why hiring a returned Peace Corps Volunteer will ruin your business.
- Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) question the status quo. Business as usual is exactly what a PCV is trained to rebel against. We are indoctrinated to look for the status quo and squash it. Cashew farmers in Ghana were just given cashew trees when the great drought of the 1980s destroyed all the cocoa. They’ve continued farming the same way, because it works. But we taught them that simple changes can triple their yield. Businesses shouldn’t hire a returned Peace Corps Volunteer if they want to maintain a status quo. If you want someone to help you find ways you can improve, you should hire an RPCV.
- RPCVs over-communicate. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you have to translate almost everything on a daily basis. During training events, you might even need to translate into multiple languages with a translator. You learn quickly that communication is at the heart of all problems. So you over-communicate. You learn the varying levels of explanation you will need for any project: high-level government jargon to send back to Peace Corps, local-level negotiations, basic training language, translator-friendly speak or acronym alphabet. Businesses shouldn’t hire an RPCV if they want employees to keep quiet. If you want someone who will not fear communication, you should hire an RPCV.
- RPCVs have a different concept of what is “important.” Try going one day without something you rely on – your cell phone, laptop, electricity, flushing toilets. Suddenly those items become incredibly important. Try spending two years experiencing terrible roads in beat up mini-buses, torrential rains that shut down all plans for three months or watching the kids dig through your trash for free stuff. Then evaluate what’s important. Arbitrary deadlines = not important. Being five minutes late to work = not important. Coming into work when you are sick = definitely not important. Businesses shouldn’t hire an RPCV if they want employees to adhere to arbitrary rules and work inside the box. If you want someone to do real, meaningful work and do it well, you should hire an RPCV.
- RPCVs are cheapskates. When you make a few hundred bucks a month and inflation is going up every few days, you learn to pinch every penny. You’ll negotiate for an extra carrot or an extra ladle of soup. You will fight taxi drivers until you are blue in the face for them to reduce their fare by just a few cents. You don’t waste money because you can’t. A recycle bin at work triggers an RPCV to think, “My neighbors would’ve begged me for this much paper – think of all the toilet paper that could be!” Saving money and squirreling it away is just in an RPCV’s DNA. Businesses shouldn’t hire an RPCV if they want to continue wasting money.
If you want someone who will save your company money by finding ways to cut back efficiently, you should hire an RPCV. Change is hard, but go ahead, give it a try, hire a returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
RPCVs, are there any reasons I missed? What would you add?
Caitlin Bauer (Ghana 2011-13) is currently a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. She served in Ghana as an Agriculture Volunteer, where she worked with cashew farmers on numerous projects, including a smartphone application for increasing transparency within the cashew supply chain.