Let’s put it this way: The Peace Corps application process is a competitive one. Are you going to select the candidate who refers to the agency as “Piece Core,” “Peace Corpse” or “Peace Corps?” The candidate who wears a tie-dyed T-shirt for the interview or the one who sports a dress shirt and tie? Are you going to be impressed with the candidate who has done her research, spoken with returned Peace Corps Volunteers and attended an information session, or the one who has read a few blogs and visited the website? Which type of candidate do you want to be?
Professionalism is certainly not the only characteristic taken into account in the application process, but it is one of a number of assessment factors–part of the whole picture of you that can help you go from same-old, same-old to stellar. What can you do to bring your A game?
You’ll, of course, want to submit a well-written essay; understand the agency, exactly what you might be doing and how your skills fit into that (or how you can gain those skills if needed!); know why you want to do this and be able to articulate your motivation; and be able to demonstrate your commitment to service and volunteerism.
At a time when we’re seeing a record high number of applications, now is the time to put your best foot forward. Don’t let that be intimidating; let this be an invitation to step up your game and present the best possible version of yourself. The great news is that the time it takes to complete the application is now shorter than ever, giving you the opportunity to put extra effort into proofreading, taking the time to understand the process, tweaking your résumé, practicing your interviewing skills (have you ever tried a mock interview?) and–once a candidate–prioritizing polished correspondence with your Placement Officer and adhering to requested timelines. These simple things will help your application stand out.
Or think of it this way: You’re not just applying to the Peace Corps, which may conjure up images of dusty clothes and well-worn backpacks. You’re applying to be a teacher, a small business consultant, a public health worker, an environmental or agricultural educator. You’re applying to be selected not only as a representative of the Peace Corps but also of the United States, and the job comes with an awesome “benefits package.” How would you treat the application process for any of those positions here in the U.S.?
Need some pointers or a pep talk? Take advantage of the career center on your campus or your alma mater. Connect with your Regional Recruitment Office and request a recruiter review your résumé. While you’re at it, see if they have a few minutes to answer questions about their experience and find out when the next information session is in your area. I look forward to seeing your polished, professional application and your A game. And, hey, don’t forget to enjoy the process–we want to see your personality, too.
Erin McGillivray served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya where she trained teachers in HIV/AIDS education, started health clubs and a girls’ empowerment program and secured the coveted last place position in an International Camel Derby. She currently works as a Placement Officer and, when not being inspired by thousands of Peace Corps candidates, can be found teaching kiddos on the ski hill, cycling by a lake or river or consuming large quantities of dark chocolate. This article was originally posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog.