Peace Corps Videos

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Getting Started

I found out today that I'm going to be nominated to be a Peace Corps volunteer. This is great news and I'm excited. I'm starting this blog to keep a record of my experiences in the Peace Corps, the application process and my time overseas.

I've spent almost 15 years working for the same company and the last 23 years working in television news. I have a good job and a nice life, but I feel it is time to do something different. The Peace Corps seems to fit that bill.

I first remember hearing about the Peace Corps when Jimmy Carter was running for President. I was probably about 15 years old at the time and his mother "Ms. Lillian" was getting almost as much attention as Mr. Carter. I remembered hearing that she had been a Peace Corps volunteer and I remember thinking that would something I would like to do. (A few years later, I had the chance to interview Ms. Lillian, but I didn't ask her about the Peace Corps.)

The next time I got interested in the Peace Corps was during a three week exchange trip to Germany sponsored by the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and RIAS, which hosts two groups of journalists in Germany each year. It was a great experience and really got me interested in wanting to live in another culture, another place.

Now, fast forward ten years later, I'm 46, financially secure and have no debt and really no reason that I can't do this now. There was not ONE thing that motivated me to make the move at this time, but probably a combination of things at work. The industry is changing, like all industries do, but it isn't as much fun as it used to be. As the head of a TV news department I often feel like I'm more of a Personnel Manager instead of a news manager. It has always been the news that I have enjoyed and I get to do less and less of that each day. My company is also undergoing some transformations. We are now on our 4Th CEO since I've been with the company. There are many changes coming and I'm not sure I really want to shoulder the blame that my staff will give me for some of these.

My process started on-line. I came home on September 26th after a stressful day at the TV station, filled out the application and medical history, hit send and was on my way. A little over a week later, I was getting fingerprinted at the police department, getting copies of my college transcript and getting three references to say good things about me.

That lead to the interview and it was quite an unusual interview. I met Tricia Siaso, my recruiter at a Borders bookstore, we walked back into the stacks at the store, found two chairs and chatted for about an hour. I told her that my interest was really in business development and would enjoy working with someone to either start or develop their business. I also expressed a desire to work somewhere warm. We briefly discussed the former Soviet states and Eastern Europe but I think she got the idea that I didn't want to go somewhere cold if I could help it. She told me she thought I was competitive for the position and would be in touch with me this week.

After I got home from the interview, I started what has become an almost nightly task--going on-line and reading more about the Peace Corps. It was the night after the interview when I read an article that almost 1/2 of the people who apply to the Peace Corps are turned down. However, I also saw that many of those were people without professional experience. I remained hopeful.

True to her word, Tricia phoned and e-mailed me on Monday to say she had some good news...a business development opportunity in the Pacific. I didn't get the messages until Monday night so couldn't call her until Tuesday. I asked more about the position. She didn't have a lot of details except that it was in the Pacific. She did have one business advising position left in the Caribbean but she said she didn't know if it was still open and that she really felt like I should be in the higher level business development program. I said okay so she is forwarding me the medical paperwork to complete and the official nomination.

Until today, only three people know that I have applied for this position and those are my three references. I am flying up to Virginia this weekend to tell my family my plans. I believe they will be supportive and I am going to need their support. My plan is to sell my house before I leave but I don't want to put it on the market until I receive the official invitation that I have been cleared. The same for my job. I'm not going to say anything until I know for sure that this is happening. Tricia, my recruiter, said that if I get my medical work done quickly, I should get something by January, but said it could take longer. All the Peace Corps will guarantee is six weeks before you leave. I'm hoping for a bit more time.

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