Peace Corps...

I’m a graduating senior, who up until a short time ago was passively considering the Peace Corps as an option sometime down the road. I got a call last week from a recruiter saying she had an opening for me to go to Central/South America leaving this summer. The program is listed as “genreral construction”, and has enough flexibility in it for me to use my design education, according to the recruiter.

My question is, if I take this opportunity, will it make it more difficult to get a product design job (ideally at a consultancy)? I will most likely not have the resources of my school’s career services, and have limited experience, (one internship, and a few freelance jobs). I have an intrest in social design, but would like to eventually work in a consultancy.

Short answer is, no. It should not affect your opportunities. It shouldn’t affect your school helping you out either. They should still be willing to provide you with the same job listings and contacts a year from now as they would now. If not…that’s pretty crappy on the school’s part.

From my perspective, this kind of endeavor will make you a BETTER designer. Gaining first hand experience seeing the rest of the world. All other things being equal, I will hire a world travelled designer before someone who hasn’t stepped outside their neighborhood.

Ip is right kid, only kiss of death in ID is gray hair :laughing:

Yeah its not exactly the ideal time to be looking for any sort of job anyway

Do it.

Not to knock it, because I would do it too, but I’m sure the recruiter is spinning the type of work so it seems as if it is ID related. I can imagine you’ll be digging foundations and putting up wood frames for houses… requires some math, technical thinking, hands on experience with tools.

But I doubt you’ll really be “designing” anything.


Do it!

Ip is right kid, only kiss of death in ID is gray hair

Old age, and treachery, will overcome youth and skill.

… don’t know who wrote it Zip, but I sure as hell hope it’s true.

Thanks for the feedback everyone. It’s looking pretty likely that the Peace Corps is where I’ll end up. I’ve heard of some industries looking down on the Peace Corps, but I’m glad to know that the design community is supportive. I realize the recruiter is maybe exaggerating the role of design in the work I’ll be doing. But she did say that aside from the work she did in the field, she started a small “cottage industry” with the locals, and helped them make things to sell in the markets. I look at the work of Victor Papanek, and Ideo’s Money maker Pump, and most recently the OLPC project, and see a tremendous need for design in the developing world. But the only way to find out first hand what needs there are and what the potential solutions are is to find out first hand. So I guess that’s my primary motivation for going… And to get a sweet tan.

Thanks again for all your input, my mother will worry a little less now.

I wouldn’t underestimate the amount of ID related work you’ll be doing. There is a lot of opportunities in the peace corps to start your own initiatives, which means there is a lot of room for you to do as much ID and ID-related work as you like.

My sister is returning from a 3 year tour in Botswana next week, and seeing the work she did, she was able to pull in her interests (even such useless interests as scrapbooking) into the work she was doing. You’ll have a lot of chances to do that, in addition you’ll get a lot of new and different experiences that will help you choose what you want to do, and how design can change the world :slight_smile:

As a designer who did Peace Corps out of undergrad, I can definitely recommend it as a valuable addition to a design education, though maybe not in the most predictable way.

The main thing I got out of it, design-wise, was spending a long time in a culture where factory-manufactured goods are still relatively scarce and expensive. Reduced labor costs and lack of infrastructure meant that a lot of physical needs were still met by skilled local artisans, making utensils, clothes, tools, etc on a custom, one-off basis, and it’s an amazing thing to experience. I was in Tanzania, but I imagine the economic situation in Central America is similar enough that plenty of people still have a lot of their stuff made by the guy next door, affording the sort of connection to the design and manufacturing process that has mostly disappeared in the industrialized world.

Beyond that, Peace Corps is a phenomenal education in ethnographic research, mostly by force of situation: if you want to get anything done, you have to pay close attention to how people live their lives and use their objects, because if a solution isn’t locally appropriate, it doesn’t work at all. It’s the sort of understanding that Interaction Designers can spend years trying to learn in school, but a survival skill in most Peace Corps postings.

Only in some fields, and ID aint one of them :open_mouth:

No I do not think effect your hire-ability. Just make sure you leave time to keep a sketchbook.