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Month: February 2017

Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer

Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer

peace-corpsTwenty-seven months in the Peace Corps is an experience like no other. It’s very hard work and oftentimes lonely, as volunteers are stationed thousands of miles away from family and friends and are the obvious outsiders in their adopted communities. But it is also a transformative experience, one that introduces participants to a larger global narrative in which they can impact individual lives in an unfamiliar corner of the world. University of Dallas graduate Kaylee Gund and Peace Corps area director Mike Madej, Regional Recruiter for the Peace Corps, spoke recently to a group of University of Dallas students about life as Peace Corps volunteers, as well as how to navigate the Peace Corps application process.

“The Peace Corps is looking for flexible people who can work with little or no supervision,” said Madej. “Whether it’s working with farmers to understand loan applications or to teach science, we need people who do their jobs.”

The Peace Corps hires volunteers through a competitive application process. According to Madej, there were about 21,000 applicants last year for 4,000 placements. Because Peace Corps divides its job openings into sectors, the first step in the application process is to consider which of these sectors–agriculture, education, health, community economic development, environment, and youth in development–interest you. Although the Peace Corps website lists “Apply Now” as the first step in the process, searching openings before applying will help you tailor your resume to specific positions.

After researching positions, you should prepare a resume that focuses on the skills required by the positions you’ve researched. Madej said that your Peace Corps resume should not be in the traditional chronological format: “List your most relevant experience first and include concrete facts like the cumulative number of hours you worked in a position and the number of people you served.” He added that the project description for each opening will contain key phrases and transferable skills required by the job, so you should highlight your experiences that reflect those skills. “Spell out what you did in your experience so we can understand what qualifications you possess,” Madej said. He added that it’s fine for your resume to be 3+ pages.

When you have completed your resume, the next step is completing the online application, part of which will require a personal statement from you about why you want to join the Peace Corps. “This is not an essay about how you want to save the world,” Madej said. “Your personal statement should include a personal story about what motivates you to join.” You will also fill out a confidential health care questionnaire and then move on the listing your country and sector preferences.

Although you can’t choose where the Peace Corps places you, you many prioritize up to three countries and up to three sectors. After the Peace Corps recruiters review your submission, you will be notified if you’ve be chosen for an online interview. “We’ll ask you questions about how you’ve worked with people from other cultures and how well you work independently,” Madej said. Your answers to the questions will be scored against other applicants, and the top scores will move to the next step in the process, which are background and medical checks.

If you pass both of these checks, you will receive an invitation and will be notified of your departure date. You will spend time in the U.S. training and then head to your assignment country.

Madej encourages anyone interested in applying to the Peace Corps to work with a local recruiter: “Working with a recruiter is highly encouraged to enhance the competitiveness of your application.” Quinn Walker, the DFW recruiter, can be reached by clicking here.

Although Gund and Madej both pointed out the difficulties they faced as Peace Corps volunteers, neither would trade the experience. “I was the only female teacher at the school where I taught,” Gund said. “And it gave me a chance to be a blessing and a focal point for the issues around women’s empowerment in the village. I was able to reach the girls in my class and encourage them.”

For more information about applying for the Peace Corps, visit their website. To make an appointment to speak to an OPCD career counselor, click here.

Writing Your Federal Resume: Part 2

Writing Your Federal Resume: Part 2

This is the second of two posts about applying for jobs with the federal government.

In order to be hired for most jobs within the federal government, there is a specific process applicants must complete. During a recent video conference, Todd Floersheim, Senior Recruitment Advisor from the Office of Personnel Management, gave tips for navigating the process and creating a successful federal resume and application.

Floersheim focused on three important facts about writing your federal resume.

Fact 1: The Federal Government does not require does not require a standard job application. Your resume is your application.

This means your resume must be impeccable. Your resume should contain start and end dates for each job and the number of hours per week you worked. It should also include the level of experienced you achieved. For instance, you should list whether you served as a project manager or a team member to illustrate your level of experience. You should also include examples of your experience and accomplishments.

Fact 2: Hiring agencies state the qualification requirements in the Job Opportunity

Announcement (JOA). You must meet the requirements in the JOA to be considered for the job.

Unlike many private sector jobs postings which contain a “wish list” of qualifications, the federal government’s JOA lists non-negotiable qualifications. In other words, don’t bother applying if you do not meet every one of the qualifications listed.

Fact 3: After applying, the hiring agency who made the post uses the information in your resume to verify if you have the qualifications stated in the JOA.

This means your resume MUST be tailored to the specific job posting and list concrete examples of when and how you obtained the necessary qualifications.

Other federal resume tips

  • There is a resume builder on the USA Jobs website. This is a good option if you are starting from scratch.
  • Use reverse chronological order (most recent experience listed first) to help agencies evaluate your experience.
  • Emphasize your strengths. Include everything you’ve done that relates to the job you are seeking, but leave out experience that isn’t relevant.
  • Include your experience and accomplishments under the job in which you earned it. Where it makes sense, present your achievements and accomplishments with numbers, percentages or dollars. For example: Improved efficiency of document processing by 25% over the previous year.
  • Customize your resume. Pay close attention to the JOA job description and tailor your resume accordingly rather than sending the same for every job.

After you post your resume, you will be given several short-answer questions about your experience and accomplishments. Keep copies of your answers to these questions. They may be useful should you be granted an interview.

Although the applying for a federal job may seem daunting, carefully following the instructions on the USA Jobs website will make your work easier.

To speak with someone at OPCD about applying for jobs, click here.


Writing Your Federal Resume: Part 1

Writing Your Federal Resume: Part 1

As spring job hunting season approaches, the federal government is one area that may hold promise for soon-to-be graduates.  According to, the federal government employs over 2.1 million workers plus 617,000 Postal employees. The U.S. Government is the largest employer in the United States, hiring over 2% of the nation’s workforce, and the average annual salary for full-time federal job holders exceeds $81,258.

But in order to be hired, there’s a specific process applicants must complete. During a recent video conference, Todd Floersheim, Senior Recruitment Advisor from the Office of Personnel Management, gave tips for navigating the process and creating a successful federal resume and application.

The first step in getting hired by the federal government is to familiarize yourself with the application process and explore available opportunities. Start with and navigate to the Pathways Graduate Programs for a list of internships and jobs for recent graduates. From there, you can search available jobs by title or agency.

Once you see a job that interests you, clicking on the job title will bring you to the JOA, or Job Opportunity Announcement. The JOA contains all of the information you need to know in order to apply. Floersheim recommends keeping a copy of each JOA you apply for, as well as the resume you create for each one.

The JOA will detail the location(s) of the position and the opening and closing dates of the position. The opening and closing dates will depend on the number of applicants the agency wishes to receive.

The job overview contains a summary, which is a kind of mission statement for the agency posting the JOA. The “Duties” section details a “day in the life” of this job. You aren’t expected to be able to do all of the duties listed–they are there to give you an idea of what the job will be like.

Next is a list of the job requirements, the first of which is “Qualifications.” These are extremely important and non-negotiable. Your resume must show that you have achieved all of the qualifications listed on the JOA. It’s not a wish list.

If you are qualified and click “apply,” you will begin the application process by creating a resume.

Our next post will focus on tips for creating a federal resume.

Click here for a list of applicant-resource-links from the Federal Office of Personnel Management.

To visit with an OPCD career counselor, click here.

Advance Job Fair February 9: Tips from employers

Advance Job Fair February 9: Tips from employers

The Office of Personal Career Development is holding its Advance: Intern, Job and Grad School Fair on Thursday, February 9, from 3:00-6:00pm in Upstairs Haggar. Some careful preparation can help you land a great job or internship.

Here are some tips from a few of the employers who will be attending:

Abby Bird, Recruitment and Training Coordinator
The Heritage Foundation

  • Dress professionally
  • Come prepared to talk to the companies that most interest you, but it’s not necessary to be an expert on every company.
  • Work on your elevator pitch–give the recruiter some insight into what you hope to do and highlight one or two key pieces of your resume.
  • A paper resume is fine but I prefer email and am happy to give out my email address

Madison Read, Leader in Development, Associate Services Omni Hotel Dallas

How can a student best present themselves?

  • Dress professionally
  • Warm hospitality smile and demeanor
  • Great handshake
  • Researching Omni Hotels and Resorts, our culture, and the Leader in Development Program can’t hurt!

What do we like to hear in an elevator pitch?

  • Name, Major, Expected Graduation Date, and Career Goals!

What to bring?

  • Copies of their Resume

Hunter Womack, Scribe Ambassador 
PhysAssist Scribes

  • Research what a scribe does as well as our company. This will make the conversation more in depth, rather than me spending the whole time talking about what a scribe does.
  • I would like to hear what they are studying and what kind of medical experience they might have that would be pertinent to their potential time at PhysAssist.
  • Resumes are not required but I will take them if they bring them.

A few more tips from OPCD Career Counselors

  • Be prepared to talk about not only what experience you have, but what you hope to do in the future.
  • Thoughtful questions about an employer’s business will make a good impression.
  • Practice your elevator pitch, but don’t memorize it. You want to come across as personable and confident. If this kind of activity is outside your comfort zone, practice with a friend or record yourself.
  • Try not to be nervous about talking to employers. They will be there to meet you, and they want to hear about you.

To view a list of employers who will be present at the job fair, click here.

The Natural Vocabularies of All People with Luca Vullo

The Natural Vocabularies of All People with Luca Vullo

Gestures such as a slight nod of the head or a shoulder shrug convey meaning without words and, as Americans, we are accustomed to using such gestures during routine conversations. But as Italian writer, director and producer Luca Vullo explained to a group of University of Dallas students on January 23, Sicilians have taken the art and grammar of physical gestures to the highest level. “Big gestures are not just a stereotype,” he said. “It’s an ability, a skill.”

Photo by Marquel Plavan
Photo by Marquel Plavan

Vullo’s presentation began with a screening of his film, La Voce del Corpo, which details the Sicilian custom of using hand gestures and facial expressions to augment and even replace spoken-word conversations. A historian in the film explained that Sicily sits at the crossroads of many cultures–a gateway between Africa and Europe. One theory on the origin of Sicilian gestures claims that they facilitated communication between travelers speaking a variety of languages. A Sicilian fable, though, says that an ancient king commanded his people to be silent, so his subjects were forced to communicate using gestures involving all parts of the body–head face, hands and feet. Regardless of the origin, the Sicilian language of gesture has evolved into what the film’s historian called a “supranational language.”

Photo by Marquel Plavan
Photo by Marquel Plavan

In his workshop following the film, Vullo described the grammar of gestures: a gesture can have very different meanings depending on the facial expression or body language surrounding it. According to Vullo, placing the thumb and forefinger together and mimicking drinking coffee doesn’t just mean ‘coffee.’ “It means, ‘Let’s go out now and drink a coffee together,’” he said.

But that same expression with the eyes wide open can mean ‘be careful.’ “When do this with a sweep of the arm across the chest,” Vullo said, “it means perfecto.” And, most importantly, he explained that the same gesture used in an Arabic country represents the most vulgar expression imaginable. “Whatever you do,” he said. “Don’t use the American ‘OK’ symbol in an Arab country.”

Photo by Marquel Plavan
Photo by Marquel Plavan

According to Vullo, the body is also an important tool in the language of gestures. Shaking one’s open hand in a downward motion to the side of the body means “I’m bored.” But shaking both hands forcefully acts as a superlative, changing the meaning of the gesture to “I’m really bored. Let’s get out of here.”

Vullo’s presentation illustrated how spoken words are just one aspect of communication.  Gestures and facial expressions like those used in Sicily not only add depth to the language, they provide a window into the beauty of meaning that lies beneath the words.

For more information on the Office of Personal Career Development, click here.