In the ensuing year and a half since I have returned to the Peace Corps, I have taken on a multitude of jobs in the pursuit of ‘the one’. Working to put the jumble of interesting, exciting, hard and soft skills I gained in the challenging world of Peace Corps to use in the round hole that is the domestic job criteria I have been matching, has often made me feel like a square peg.
There are 5 definite lessons I learned while in the Peace Corps which continue to come to mind here in today’s work.
1- Intentional relationship building (IRB)- not just a fun little acronym to throw around. No matter where you are these days a key skill you are putting to use is IRB-ing. We may not be considering it so intentionally as previously, but creating relationships where you are currently living and working, is what it opening the doors to advancing yourself professionally and otherwise. It’s important to take the time to develop these partnerships, to stop and have the (turkish) coffee..
2- Acceptance into a community takes time- Remembering landing in my site in the beginning and having the eager idea that things would take off right away, was shockingly refocused when acclimating to the language and gaining connections actually took a year or longer in my community. It’s no different back here in the US. If anything, it may be even harder.
I’ve returned to a nearby town to where I grew up. Yet, this is the Midwest and many people have lived here in this town their whole lives. They already have their fixed groupings, some focused around work and others on the lasting connections from high school or even their parent’s high school connections. So, I am not a unique, special someone flown in from another country to do interesting things for them. I’m just another person, number… It’s connecting with these existing communities through joining clubs, taking group exercise classes, and well point 1- IRBing that puts me on the path of acceptance into the community.
3- It takes all sorts. Just as there were the people I enjoyed working with who were calm, patient, organized and well-spoken in Albania; there were also the dis-organized, macho, pig-headed jerks. It is not much different, there will be all sorts of people to relish or get by dealing with. In my mother language here, it can be even more annoying to deal with, it’s not as easy to feign communication issues.
4- You are your toughest critic. It seemed that while I made relevant progress in my goals in Albania, there were always things that I knew I ought to be more diligent about- showing up earlier at a more set time to work, following-up more frequently on work with people, spending more of my time dedicated to the objectives I was seeking to fulfill, etc.
While these days my jobs are more cut and dry, I compare myself to the laid-back aide who is easy going and accommodating, or to the gregarious, outgoing new trainee at the front desk who people speak to first, despite my long serving time in this position, because of her open friendliness. We all bring different skills to the table, it’s best to acclimate those to the current situation.
5- Stop planning, take action- this is one I struggled with there and I struggle with now. I make lists, I make lists for my lists, I put things on my calendar, and.. I change my mind, change my self-appointment for completing something, change my deadline, erase or remove it from the list. I tell myself that reviewing and adjusting my expectations ought to be expected, and my issue with all this is likely related to point number 4. Sometimes, it is best to stop saying you’re going to go to body pump class, and at least just get to the Y. Walk on the treadmill for an hour or something. Stop planning to visit that little village, just do it.