10 Career Tips from RPCV Female Leaders

This June, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC (RPCV/W) hosted its third career panel of the year, featuring many accomplished women in leadership roles. The event was well-attended and provided many critical insights for RPCVs seeking leadership positions.

RPCV/W invites you to our next career panel, focusing on the nonprofit sector, on Tuesday, August 20. Not sure what to expect from the event? Read on!

During the June event, we had the pleasure of hosting (pictured below, from left to right):

Kate Raftery, Director for Service Innovation at U.S. Peace Corps

Anna Sparks, Manager at Deloitte

Jalina Porter, Communications Director at U.S. House of Representatives

Maricarmen Smith-Martinez, Program Manager at Bixal and Board Chair at National Peace Corps Association; and 

Kylie Poirier, Assistant Project Manager at Maher & Maher and RPCV/W Vice President.

These DC-based RPCVs had a wide range of career backgrounds, leadership experience, and sage advice. RPCV/W Professional Development committee member Karlia Brown (pictured below, far left) facilitated the conversation.


6 women sit in front of audience to speak

The panelists discussed how their career paths led to their current leadership roles and answered questions from the audience. They provided practical career advice, inspiring anecdotes, and tips for balancing a successful career with life outside of work, including how they had been impacted by societal expectations and biases toward women.

We’ve culled the rich conversation into 10 key takeaways:

  1. Be confident when sharing your Peace Corps experience with a potential employer. Have anecdotes and “success stories” ready to go and connect each with a specific skill or set of skills gained, and impact made. Don’t downplay your professional experience in the Peace Corps. 

  2. Take advantage of the RPCV network either for opportunities or relationships. Connecting with RPCV/W or other affiliate groups provides social and professional networks. 

  3. Do transition between the public and private sectors. Skills from both sectors are transferable and highly valued. 

  4. Give what you get and more. “Pay it forward” in your professional life, be humble, and don’t be afraid to proactively help people. 

  5. When taking time off of work, stay engaged with the company by “keeping one foot in the door.” Life events such as marriage, kids and family commitments pull professionals away from their jobs. You can stay engaged formally or informally through activities such as email or in-person check-ins. 

  6. Maintain your networks as you progress in your career. Find social and professional networks in your given field (like the National Press Club) and boards for nonprofits and organizations (like the RPCV/W Board of Directors).

  7. Self-reflect and actively address your skill gaps. Self knowledge/awareness is critical: know your strengths and weaknesses; be a life-long learner. 

  8. Negotiate your salary. Ask for what you are worth. You may get turned down, but by putting the figure out there, you are asserting your high value and not underselling yourself. 

  9. Hustle! Keep working hard and diversify your experiences. 

  10. Persevere. All of the panelists shared stories of perseverance in the face of difficulties to arrive in their leadership positions. 


Photo Credits: Kenneth Goughnour for RPCV/W


Questions about or for the panelists? Contact RPCV/W Professional Development Director Clarke Birrell ([email protected])!