5 ways to network when you live halfway around the world

By Anna Sparks
Jan. 21, 2016

If you’re near the end of your service and thinking about heading back to the United States (or another country) to work, you may already been focused on your job search. 

You can write your résumé, draft cover letters and even prep for interviews from almost anywhere in the world. You can even interview by phone or Skype from most places (or maybe in the bigger town a few hours away).

But what about networking? Forbes confirmed that networking is the #1 way to get a job. How do you do that when you may live in a country that some employers in the U.S. have never heard of?

The good news is that “traditional” networking events like career fairs are totally out and online and one-on-one networking are in. So, as a Peace Corps Volunteer (or returned Volunteer heading to a new country), how do you take advantage of that?

  • Tell people you’re looking.

Pick your favorite social media app (and the one one which you have the most friends and/or colleagues) and let people know you are looking for a job. Let’s say Instagram is your favorite platform. Don’t post a picture of yourself with a sad face and the caption, “Looking for a job. Who can help me?”

Instead, post a picture of yourself happy in a beautiful scene from your site with a caption like, “I am going to miss Malawi so much when I have to leave in March, but I am looking forward to getting back to Chicago and starting my career in advertising. Not sure about the job part yet but I’m sure I’ll find something soon!”

This puts your desire to find a job out there for all of your friends in Chicago to see without screaming, “Help me find a job!”

  • Contact former colleagues and people you know in the industry.

The good news about starting your job search while you are still not in that country is that you don’t seem pushy. You don’t need a job immediately (because you live a million hours away) and you are gathering information about what might be available soon.

Contact people you’ve working with before and friends or acquaintances who work in the industry you’re targeting. Send them messages individually and ask smart questions. Your message could look something like this:

Hey Kristen!

It’s been fun to keep up with you on Facebook. I see that you and Chris went to Ecuador recently (a trip to the Galapagos is on my bucket list). Any chance of you coming to Asia soon? I’d love to host you in Thailand. Flights from the U.S. are actually pretty cheap these days.

I actually finish up here in June and will be heading back to Seattle. I’ve done a lot of great work with women’s education here and I’m looking forward to working for a non-profit that works with refugees in Seattle. I know you volunteered with International Rescue Committee during grad school and I’d love to hear your thoughts about a career with them.

Specifically, I’d like to know which countries refugees being served by IRC are from. In addition, I’m curious to know what kinds of entry-level positions would need my skill set.  If you’d be comfortable with it and still have contacts there, is there anyone you’d recommend I speak with?

I’m really looking forward to seeing you in a few months and especially going out for a few American microbrews (I am missing great beer!) like we used to!

Thanks for your help!


  • Talk to people who want to talk to you.

Instead of cold calling/emailing people, reach out to people who are specifically recruiting people like you. If you’re not on an RPCV jobs site, now’s the time to get on. If you are qualified and interested in one of the jobs that’s posted, message the person who posted it or comment on the post. They are posting the job on that page because they want RPCVs to apply for it. They want to talk to RPCVs and learn who is interested in the job and what their qualifications are. Connect with them.

In this economy, most positions have 100 applicants or more. It’s tough to stand out in such a crowd even if you are supremely qualified for the position. You’re much more likely to be considered if someone knows your name and says, “Oh yeah, Anna Sparks, I talked to her on Facebook. Let’s invite her for an interview. She seems like she has really good experience.”

  • Establish new connections by offering something.

It feels uncomfortable to be in the job search and always wanting something. Consider offering something instead. As a PCV, you have a lot of skills to offer, including linking people with organizations in your country of service, talking about your Peace Corps experience or your country of service (part of the Third Goal) at schools, universities, Rotary Clubs, non-profit organizations, etc., or serving as a volunteer for a non-profit in the field in which you’d eventually like to work.

Reach out to organizations you’d like to interact with about two or three months before you finish your service. Set up meetings a few weeks prior to your Close Of Service date (or return to U.S. date).

This serves two purposes. First, it jumpstarts your networking when you get back, of course. Second, it gives some structure to your life in your first month or so back when RPCVs can feel like they are flailing.

  • Don’t forget about college alumni groups.

Make sure you are connected online with your undergrad alumni group and your grad school alumni group. If you were a member of a large organization (like a fraternity or sorority, service or church group or an active honor society), track those groups down online as well.

The more people you know when you head back to the U.S., the better. And those people don’t even have to be people related to the job you are looking for. The bigger your community (your network), the more likely you are to come across a job, a fun activity you’d like to participate in and new friends, and the more likely you are to be happy in your post-Peace Corps life and career.

Anna Sparks