By Conor Sanchez
Millennials – that tech-savvy, selfie-taking, debt-ridden cohort born between 1980 and the mid-2000s – are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Welcome. Despite all the negative things that have been said about us – we’re narcissistic, spoiled, and entitled – a consensus is now growing that recognizes us as a hard-working generation that wants to make a positive social impact.
It’s no secret that our generation harbors some different ideas about the life-work balance and what it means to pursue the American Dream. As someone born in 1987, I grew up on the Internet, was educated throughout the Iraq War, and graduated from college during one of the worst economic recessions in U.S. history. All of these events, among many others, have invariably made a deep impact on who we are and who we will become in the not too distant future. They also granted us certain traits that make our perspective on the world somewhat distinct from past generations.
Many of these traits point to a generation that is much more concerned about creating a world that is more compassionate, sustainable, and inter-connected. And yet, we’re pragmatic enough to know that the steps to achieve our ideals must be actionable and realizable. For that I believe we’ll end up making some stellar Peace Corps Volunteers and if you still aren’t convinced, here are eight more reasons:
1. We’re interested in alternative forms of transportation. Fortunately, in most of the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, there are no shortage of these. As Volunteers, we take all kinds of rides to reach our destinations, including decommissioned school buses, truck beds, and even horses. We’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
2. We use selfies to tell our stories and share our experiences. Part of being a volunteer is sharing your experience with Americans back home and now that smartphones might as well be considered a new human appendage we can do that faster than ever.
3. We place a higher value on experiences than things. We’d rather seek out experiences than buy more stuff to lug around with us while we travel the world. Besides, where would we store it all if we’re not in any rush to own a home? Peace Corps is the experience of a lifetime. You’ll be challenged, you’ll be taken outside your comfort zone, and you’ll definitely have some crazy stories to tell when you get home.
4. We take calculated, purpose-driven risks. Millennials push passed “revolving doors of senior executives” to start social networks, leave cushy government jobs to write books, and stand up to terrorists to get an education. Dropping everything – which for some means quitting a job, turning down lucrative salary offers, or saying farewell to loved ones – and traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language and staying there for 27 months requires the same bold, can-do attitude.
5. We’re resourceful. Most of my peers graduated from college and entered the workforce during a difficult time in our economy. Younger members of my generation were applying to colleges and deciding whether or not to take out loans for school. Opportunities and resources were relatively scarce. This is something Volunteers deal with on a daily basis in their communities around their world and yet, they end up accomplishing some amazing things.
6. We aren’t afraid to use social media for work purposes. We’ve had Facebook since they required a college email domain to register. Sure, we’re hopelessly addicted, but it’s not just about staying connected with friends. We also look to social media to network, crowd-source, and collaborate. Volunteers serve at the grassroots level, working hand-in-hand with communities to help them achieve their goals. If technology is going to help a community get more books for a library, ensure more bed nets are being utilized, or dispel common stereotypes about a region, you better believe Millennials are going to use it.
7. We crave meaningful work. Sitting behind a desk all day to “pay your dues” and focus on tasks that don’t utilize our skills at a company that doesn’t share our personal values may help pay the bills, but it doesn’t last for long. We want to make an impact. We want our work to be purposeful. No job has provided me with that more than service in the Peace Corps, where I’m entrusted to meet with local leaders, educate future generations, and basically serve as the face of America in places that have never met someone from the United States before. Big or small, I know my reasons for getting up and going to work everyday.
8. We think citizens have a “very important obligation” to volunteer. Our civic engagement may need some work, but when it comes to volunteering, we’re pretty serious. More than our parent’s generation, we place a huge amount of importance on volunteer service. Wherever that motivation stems from – be it social media, FOMO, or simply a product of decades worth of community-service education – we have indeed become the generation that lends its time and energy to help others.
So whether you’re in your early thirties or just graduating from college, consider yourself a strong candidate for the Peace Corps. If you’re like most of your peers, you’re motivated less by fancy cars or huge houses and more by the desire to seek adventure, adapt to a life with less luxuries to serve others, and work hard to use your skills to make a positive social impact.
And if you can do all that, while also getting some solid international development experience under your belt, what do you have to lose?