This post will be different than most. I have a lot going on in my head about my future after Peace Corps, and I want to get it out and maybe get some advice. I know it seems early with more than half my service left, but it’s worth thinking about now. If you read this blog to learn about Africa and the experience of a Peace Corps Volunteer, this probably isn’t going to interest you. If you read it because you know me personally, I’d love for you to read this and offer input if you have any. A lot of this will come down to personal choice and there isn’t much anyone can do to advise me, but if you read through it and think of anything, I’d appreciate it.
My two major considerations are professional and social.
Professionally, I’m looking at three options. The “best” option right now, as I see it, is Teach for America in Denver, CO. I get two more years with no loan payments, a starting salary of $32.000 or more, great contacts, and great experience. The program also works closely with University of Denver, so I can easily earn my Master’s in Education during this time in order to pursue teaching as a career. It may not be the most lucrative, but eventually I could transition to a university setting and carve out a pretty decent living for myself. I would need to spend one year in CO getting certified as a teacher ahead of time, which also fits in with my social plans, as I will explain later.
My second option is continued social work. I love working with youth in that capacity, and I could easily jump right into a job when I get back. Over time I could build up my network and experience and move up. It would also give me more freedom geographically (the only place TfA operates that interests me is Denver). Eventually I could pursue my MSW, and earn a modest salary doing something I know I enjoy.
Third option is politics. This is by far the riskiest option, but it nevertheless intrigues me. I find economics, in particular, extremely interesting. Here in Cameroon I’ve devoured no less than five books on economic trends, policies, and theories from a politically diverse selection of authors, and I read The Economist weekly. I think I have a good mind for policy, I’m a good writer, and my education in structural Sociology gives me a unique and (I think) valuable toolkit to analyze and solve these sorts of systemic problems. Working as an analyst or an advisor might be a really great fit for me. I don’t really know the best angle for getting into politics, though. I’ve considered Foreign Service, but I may prefer to just stay in America for a while once I get back, not to mention that the FSO application process for the Economic track is ridiculously competitive; second only to the Political track. Again, though, I don’t really know another way to quickly lay a good foundation for work in politics, and the pay would allow me to pay off my loans in one or two years. There are two final considerations for politics. First, I do really loathe bureaucracy, and enjoying the philosophy of economics and politics is not the same as living it. Government life might not be for me, but I already know that working with youth is very much for me. This brings me to my second point. I am afraid that if I dive into a career with education or social work, I may never get around to politics, and I really think I’d be good at it. Call it an ambition; one I don’t want to sacrifice because the other routes are safer and easier.
Now for my social considerations. First up, I don’t want to do ANY of this as soon as I get back. I want to ski, mountain bike, socialize, and be a full-time twenty-something for 12 – 18 months before I commit myself to a career track. This brings up three points. First, I can do that and get certified in teaching at the same time in Denver, and kill two birds with one stone. Second, I can also get an easy job working evenings at a youth shelter for this period and set myself up well for social work (although it wouldn’t hurt me for education or politics, either). Third, my professional objectives have to be taken into account when I choose where to do this. If I want to do Education, I gotta go to Colorado. If I want to do politics, I should also go to Colorado because Denver has the second most government offices after Washington DC. For other reasons, however, I don’t know about Denver. I do have some great friends in and around Denver, but I also know of five awesome Peace Corps Volunteers who will be moving to Oregon after service, and they’re the kind of people I feel like I want to be around. Also, as far as skiing is concerned, Oregon wins hands down. Colorado has better mountains, sure, but getting there sucks. Traffic is terrible, and I hear it can take 2+ hours to get to the nearest hill. I can live in Portland or Eugene and be at the mountain in forty-five minutes or less. That’s a big deal for someone who wants to ski bum when he gets back. But should be driving my decision? On the one hand, I’m still young and if I want to spend 18 months being a full-time twenty-something, I feel like part of that is not giving a shit about future professional options and doing what I want to do in the moment; on the other, where I move this time is where I want to stay for a little while, and I don’t want to spend a year making friends in one place only to move immediately because my professional life demands it. For that reason, I need to start thinking about what I want to do now.
Any ideas, suggestions, alternatives, insights, whatever would be greatly appreciated. Currently all of this is a big mess inside my head, and while it’s still far enough away that it doesn’t stress me out too much, I would like to bring some order to this chaos. My e-mail, for those who don’t know, is email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.