Job Search Tips and Services
Though your job search is an important step toward a personally fulfilling career, it isn’t the only one.
We encourage RPCVs to take a four-pronged approach:
- Know yourself -- Identify and prioritize your skills, values, and the best work environment for you.
- Know the opportunities -- Conduct online research and set up informational interviews with professionals already in the field.
- Know how to tell your story -- Communicate your skills and accomplishments through interviews, résumés, cover letters, and your online presence.
- Know your worth and plan your path -- Learn how to negotiate before taking a job offer—and how to grow and excel in your new work environment after you’ve begun.
For more information on this four-pronged approach, view our short video series, Starting Your Job Search.
The first stage, “know yourself,” is an intentional process of identifying and prioritizing your skills, personality type, learning styles, career values, preferred work environment, and more. It can range from a formal process with established assessments and follow-up with a Peace Corps career development specialist to informal processes such self-reflection and list making.
Because Peace Corps service is such a transformational professional and personal experience, it’s likely that your skills, values, and interests have changed through the course of your service. Plan to check back in to “know yourself” as your life situation changes, so you can keep the professional you aligned with your ever-changing skills, values, and interests.
There are a number of free and paid resources and assessments available. The Peace Corps provides access to one comprehensive tool, Focus Careers, to get you started; create and log in to your account at the RPCV Portal, use the “Contact Us” button, and request “Access to Focus Careers”
Know the opportunities
Once you have a sense of how you can best contribute to organizations and the types you’d like to work for, now you have to find the ones that would be a good fit for you, using the many online resources available and your own professional network.
This stage may be the most important aspect of your job search and your overall career satisfaction. Getting the inside scoop about what it’s like to work for a particular company, or in a particular role, before you decide to apply to or accept a position, will make your job search more efficient and effective. You’ll discover which companies and jobs won't be a good fit for you and what specific companies are looking for in their applicants. You’ll make connections in those companies that can help you learn about openings before they are posted on jobs boards.
How to research
Online research: Check how employees review their employers at online sites. Following a company’s social media presence is another way to familiarize yourself with an organization and its culture.
In-person networking: Create business cards and refine your elevator pitch. Make a habit of introducing yourself to people and asking them about their professional lives. Seek out online tools that can help you find professional meet-ups and industry networking events. Learn more.
Online networking: Grow and engage your professional network through platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Build your brand through publishing tools and use advanced search tools to identify RPCVs working in the roles you want to pursue. It's the best way to efficiently find and connect with professionals you think would be helpful in forming and attaining your career goals.
Career chats: After connecting with someone online or at an event, a 15-20 minute follow-up career chat, or informational interview, is a great way to have your detailed questions answered. Remember, career chats are about you collecting information to help you make informed decisions as you apply to jobs and decide among opportunities. This is also a chance to develop relationships with professionals in the field. These contacts may eventually serve as references for you in the future, so cultivate the relationship and make sure it's mutually beneficial.
Know how to tell your story
After you know the opportunities you are interested in and have made connections, it’s time to communicate to hiring managers why you are the best person for the job. Your online presence, cover letter, résumé, and in-person interviews help you do that.
Because employers are inundated with options when filling open positions, you need to communicate succinctly and clearly why you are the best person for the job. Your cover letter and résumé will help you get an interview, which will get you an offer. Remember, your online presence can be checked at any point and should frame you as a professional worthy of being hired.
How to tell your story
Online presence: Use your online presence to develop and promote your professional brand. At a minimum, take down any embarrassing photos or unflattering posts or documents. Search for your name online and make sure that the results support your professional image. If they don't, work on improving your results (claim your domain name, create a personal website, link your social media profiles, fill out your profiles, etc.).
Cover letter: Always include a cover letter unless you are specifically instructed otherwise. Your cover letter is a great way to demonstrate your writing skills and provide context for your resume. Access cover letters tips.
Résumé: Your résumé is meant to get you an interview. These one- or two-page documents highlight your accomplishments relevant to the position you are targeting. Don't just simply list the job duties you’ve had in previous positions. Review a sample résumé, a sample federal résumé, and a great blog post on how to write bullet points that focus on measurable accomplishments.
Interview: Interviews can take a variety of forms and are meant to assess everything from your skills to your cultural fit with an organization. See some tips here to make the most of your interview opportunities.
Know your worth and plan your path
Congratulations, you received an offer! Now you need to make sure they are adequately compensating you. After you accept a position and start, you need to know how maximize your impact and grow your career.
When negotiating salary, factor in everyday expenses in your calculations, as the cost of living can vary widely across the U.S. and abroad. Much like you did with your initial job search research, you can use a number of online tools to help you approximate salaries for the target geographic area and industry.
Beyond salary, remember to consider (or ask about) all aspects of a compensation offer, such as student loan relief, transportation benefits, retirement and health insurance benefits, mobile phone reimbursements, time off for volunteer activities, company meals, performance bonuses, and equity stakes.
Search online for salary calculators specific to your industry and locations.
Beyond having a sense of your worth, take a look at some negotiating tips to ensure a productive conversation. The bargaining skills you developed at the local market in your country of service will come in handy here.
After you accept an offer, don't stop thinking about your job search and negotiation. Develop and track your own success metrics and accomplishments, and continue networking. From your annual reviews to promotions within your company to your next job search, keep re-examining your strengths, interests, and values. Stay apprised of industry information and engage and expand your network.
Finally, there are a number of books, advice columns, and career counselors that provide general advice to help you advance in your career. Your best source of advice, however, will likely be the network you developed during your job search. These folks will best know your specific career field and your strengths and goals.
When choosing between jumping to another company or accepting a promotion with your current employer, your network can help put your decision into context and assist you in sorting through the pros and cons of your options.
Other career resources
Recently returned Volunteers have 12 months of noncompetitive eligibility within the federal government.
Federal job search tips
Most federal jobs are posted on USAJobs.gov. Familiarize yourself with the site, its résumé builder, and advanced search tools. Check out one of the many tutorials on how to use USAJobs or a video about conducting an effective federal job search.