Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Career Path: Not What I Envisioned

In college, I had my heart set on working for an amazing nonprofit organization.

I just knew it was going to happen. I started volunteering with the organization of my choice during my senior year of college, and a few heart-squishing encounters with precious kids later, and I was hooked for life. (Still am.) It's the kind of organization that gets in your blood. I snagged an internship in the national office's Communication department after I graduated, and then managed to stick around for another year after that semester ended. And oh....oh how I loved it.

But careers must progress at some point, and I had an itch to get even more into the trenches of the nonprofit world. So when I saw a job post at another nonprofit that worked directly to provide meals, showers, temporary housing and job training to homeless individuals and the working poor in my area, I was all about it. And so I dove in.

And it was hard. It was crazy, chaotic, hard, work.

The warm fuzzies were abundant. The success stories were amazing. I loved the organization, and I loved seeing the amazing results. And...the stress level was high.

I was also young in my career. I had a tendency to get antsy. My role required me to be on the phone a lot, and a high volume of unpredictable phone calls has never been a low-stress scenario for me. I wanted to continue to use the skills I had learned in college and at my nonprofit jobs, but I felt as if a career change into a different sector might be on the horizon for me.

When a friend of a friend approached me about making the switch from my nonprofit job to a full-time writing role at an Internet marketing agency, I had some hesitation. What about those warm fuzzies?

I did, ultimately, decide to leave nonprofit world (at least professionally) and return to sitting at a computer and attending meetings with clients and meeting deadlines. And truthfully, I was happier. Working in both sectors gave me the opportunity to learn what environments are the best fits for me, and tailor my goals around my preferences.

But here's what I discovered for myself: I didn't need a full-time nonprofit job to still feel like I was saving the world.

I could still volunteer with my favorite organizations. I could rally other people to also get involved. And with a job that fulfilled me personally for 8-9 hours of the day, my stress level lowered and I had more of me to give during my free time. I was happy and healthy...and still feeling warm fuzzies, on the daily.

I tip my hat to people who thrive as long-term full-time professionals in the nonprofit world. It isn't for everyone, just like any other career won't fit all people the same. I admire the people who get down in the trenches for years and decades on end and devote their whole professional lives to causes that speak to them. Trust me, I still have my days where my heart wanders back in that direction and I aimlessly poke around on nonprofit job boards. Who knows? Maybe I'll go back someday.

While working at a nonprofit might have been my ultimate dream in college, I'm happy with where I've since ended up. And, I feel really lucky and blessed that I got to live that dream for a few years and really give it a go. Those kinds of things stick with you. 

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FWIL Sentimental Blog Content said...

I love this! I realized one day a book club could fulfill my teaching desires- and it did. Financial security fit better. And I hear you so much on applauding those who stay for the long haul- AMAZING superhero types!

Katie said...

I feel honored to be a tiny face in that last picture. Famous by association.

Becca said...

Hahahaha! First of all, let me tell you that I LOVE and TOTALLY APPRECIATE the Goofy Movie reference! :) Secondly, I LOVED this post! Thanks so much for sharing! I just graduated college and I'm entering the field of Special Education. I'm not 100% sure this is what I want to do, but it's a starting point. Your post gives me comfort to know that even if I don't pursue Special Education as a life-long career, I can still be involved in the lives of many wonderful people who need my help! And I don't have to feel guilty about it if I don't end up sticking with it! Anyway. Thanks :)