When I was finishing my service in the kingdom of eSwatini, I was applying for jobs. I applied for jobs all over the US and a few abroad. I knew that I would need to eventually work (or do something) to support whatever life I’d have post-Peace Corps. I started a spreadsheet to track all of the jobs I would apply to. I color coded the document to know (at a quick glance) who had replied to me, passed on my skill set, and/or requested an interview.
Throughout my COS trip, I applied to several jobs knowing that I wasn’t planning on returning to the US for a few months. Before I left eSwatini, I had been invited to two interviews. Thankfully, many hiring managers and interviewing staff were extremely gracious and accommodating as I interviewed via telephone or video conference. I am also thankful for fellow travelers I met throughout my COS trip who let me use their laptops and/or Wi-Fi to do these interviews.
Upon returning to DC, I had a few more interviews. This time, in person. It was the first time in more than seven years that I had sat in an interview room as an interviewee. Although I was (and still am) confident in my skill set, the once-again newness of the job search brought on a certain nervousness and uncertainty. Thankfully, DC is home to many RPCVs and a supportive community of friends and family. After connecting with friends of friends and friends to be, there were suggestions and leads to sort through. In hindsight, I’m glad that I met with everyone I did. Not everyone has a job or opportunity to offer; some can connect you to others and grow your network. Not everyone has connections, but maybe they can offer advice on the things they wish they had known when they were in your shoes. There is also value in having an attentive listening ear to give audience to the load of things floating around one’s mind. I found it very helpful to be able to talk through what I wanted and why I wanted it. It was equally as helpful to be asked questions about things that I may not have previously considered. I think that this made for a more refined presentation in job interviews and similar situations.
While I’m not a statistician, I do believe that numbers can be helpful. During this job searching period, I formally applied to 49 jobs including government, private sector, and NGO positions. This does not include various conversations that I may have had that informally discussed an open position and the like. Out of those 49 application submissions, 10 hiring managers let me know that they were passing on the opportunity to work with me. Eight of those 49 hiring managers invited me to an interview. One of those interviews resulted in the interviewing panel passing on my skill set, but they referred me to another team that was possibly interested. That led to another interview. After almost five months of post-service job hunting, I had received two offers. Last month, I started a new position just outside of Washington, DC in a field that I have extremely limited knowledge in. It’s a learning curve and an adjustment, and I’m enjoying it. Every day presents new challenges and new opportunities. For that, I’m thankful.
For those who may be wondering, being an RPCV helped. Having non-competitive eligibility (NCE) helped. Having a resume that shows adaptability, transferable skills, and a decent work history helped. I recognize that everyone has a different journey and experience. Many different things came together for me. It was magical that they came together at the right time. If this process and experience has taught me anything, it’s this: don’t be afraid to ask for help AND don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
Be kind to yourself.
Since I’ve been back in Washington, DC, I’ve ramped up my job search. Days have been spent looking through job sites to match up my skill set and desires to job descriptions. On more fortunate days, I have exchanged emails with hiring managers or representatives from the offices in which I wish to work. Since I’ve returned to DC, I’ve had some face to face interviews. I have also been very fortunate to have networking and career planning opportunities with amazing people. The above photo was taken by Victoria after an interview last week.
Be kind to yourself.
Today marks one month since a flight from Beijing touched down at Dulles International Airport with me on it. It’s been a month of reconnecting with the old familiar and connecting with new folks. A month of rediscovering the city that is the epitome of home. As I reflect on the past month, I figured that I’d share some of the moments that stand out since I’ve been back and some frequently asked questions.
How was it?
– This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. How was what? After 2.5 years away, I’ve done a few things. There was the Peace Corps thing, the AfrikaBurn thing, and the travel around Asia thing among other things.
What are you doing/going to do now?
– Retire. Just kidding. I wish I could. I’m job searching and getting used to life in the city again.
How are you doing with readjustment?
– Eh. Like anything else in life, it varies with the day. Sometimes, it varies within the day. Overall, it’s good. As my uncle would say: “I’m living indoors and eating three meals a day, so I’m pretty good.”
Since I’ve been back, there are things I’ve noticed about the city and things I’ve noticed about myself.
As I was waiting for the bus to come in Northern Virginia, I overheard a lady talking on her phone. She was lamenting about the bus system here doesn’t display when the next bus will come like Seattle’s bus system. She continued that a website stated that the bus was five minutes late. I chuckled to myself as I remembered hoping that the bus (in eSwatini) would come some days. If it didn’t, try again tomorrow. Patience truly is a virtue.
A local DC friend, who currently lives in Thailand, was home visiting when I first returned. As we were catching up and hanging out, we shared a moment about water. We were talking about how amazing it is to have indoor plumbing. To be able to turn on a faucet and drink the water. Fantastic! No worrying about the sickness or death that could follow. It’s a great feeling.
The city is different, but familiar. There is a plethora of electric scooters available for rent around the city. Capital Bikeshare has added Plus bikes, which have electric pedal assist. They are really fast. Speaking of bikes, I’ve celebrated New Bike Day twice since my return. Riding on pavement and tarred roads is beyond awesome. One of my favorite restaurants in the city, Los Hermanos, is still on Park Road and it’s still wonderfully delicious. It was the only food I came back to the US desiring.
The photo above is a small group of RPCVs from G14 gathering for a birthday celebration. I am extremely thankful to have served with such supportive people.
Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – As a cyclist, one of the most important holidays is New Bike Day. Here’s a picture of my new ride (one of them):
P.P.S. – This series, “Monday in a Picture” will continue through the end of the year. After that, updates won’t be as frequent.
One of the things that we were warned about before finishing service in eSwatini was the overwhelming-ness of the grocery store. American grocery stores are filled with stuff. Some stuff is slightly different from other stuff. Sometimes, the differences are so slight that it’s difficult to tell why all of the stuff exists. With an abundance of options, it can be difficult to make a decision.
Then, there are the prices. Shortly after arriving in eSwatini, I walked through Swazi grocery stores converting everything into US dollars. Now that I’m back in DC, my mind readily converts everything into emalangeni. I’m sure I’ll break the habit eventually, but initially, the sticker shock is real.
Recently, I was walking through a local grocery store and thought, “why are there so many kinds of Oreos?” Cold brew coffee is a big thing now. As a less than occasional coffee drinker, I was perplexed by all of the bottled cold brew coffee on offer in the store. The above picture is of most of the yogurt options. So much choice!
Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – I felt like Andy Rooney, on his closing 60 Minutes segment, as I walked through the grocery store. Many times, just wondering, “why?”.
P.P.S. – Walking through the grocery store pales in comparison to walking through Wal-Mart.
Moving around in Vietnam can be done many different ways. Private cars can be hired. Bus, plane and train tickets can be acquired for travel. Then, there are motorbikes. Scooters. Motorcycles. Mopeds. They are extremely popular around the country. I learned shortly before visiting Hoi An (in central Vietnam) that it was possible to take a motorbike tour from Hoi An to Hue, a city about 100 kilometers north also in central Vietnam. I had also heard that the route was absolutely beautiful.
For the motorbike bike tour, there were two options. Option one would put me on the back of a guide’s motorbike to relax and enjoy the ride with the views. Option two would give me a motorbike to ride on my own with the guide riding another motorbike. I promptly chose option two. Last week, the time had come for me to leave Hoi An and set off for Hue. A tour guide and two motorbikes arrived at my hostel during breakfast. We were on our way.
One of the biggest attraction of the route is the 21 kilometer long Hai Van Pass. The mountain which the pass runs through separated two kingdoms in what is now Vietnam. Other than a few flash rain showers, the sun shone through some clouds throughout the day. The entire route was a visual treat. I remember riding and questioning whether or not what I was seeing was actually real. I was wondering how I’d somehow transitioned into a postcard or painting. It’s just that amazing. The photo above is a view of DaNang Bay from the Hai Van Pass.
Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – here’s a picture of me on my motorbike for the day. All smiles!
Last week, my cohort (group 14) came together for one last Peace Corps sponsored training. We assembled in the Lubumbo region of eSwatini for our Close of Service (COS) conference. This conference signals the beginning of the end. It’s held about three months before a group is set to leave.
We had our COS conference at a secluded nature reserve with beautiful views and spacious chalets. This was also the last time that we had to take a language proficiency test, which assessed how our language skills have grown throughout our service. We discussed the paperwork and conversations that need to be completed before we leave. We gave three stool samples to ensure that we aren’t leaving with parasitic friends in our respective bowels. We reflected on the work that we’ve done. We began to prepare for the adjustment and reverse culture shock that likely awaits us in America. We discussed how to best represent our service as we seek move on to careers, school or retirement. It was a full week.
While I’ll greatly miss eSwatini and emaswati (pronounced eh-mah-swah-tee), or Swazi people, I am excited for life after Peace Corps. The picture above was taken by PCV Nate during a session with a panel of RPCVs.
Be kind to yourself.