Idealized Careers and the Nonprofit World

As I prepare to graduate from college, I seek advice from an array of places. The career center at my school, newspapers, horoscopes and my grandfather. Everytime I call him I am comforted by his long rant about people “my age” not staying in jobs quite as long as his generation had. And I see it everywhere. Whether people are doing Teach for America, finding jobs in between grad school, going straight to graduate school or working in restaurants because the rent needs to be paid, there is a general sense of comradery in the fact that we’ll all get where we are going eventually.

I also see this in the non-profit organization I am currently working at. It boasts how its staff is younger than 30 (although this is untrue at the current moment). While I know nonprofits tend to have a high turn-over in positions, I also see how my executive director leaving this year will have a negative effect on the organization and I can’t help but to think that this idea of “we’ll get where we’re going” may be to the detriment of nonprofits.

How quick does social change happen? Not quick at all. And with the overturn in leadership at non profits this may take even longer. The mindset of finding your passion somewhere can affect nonprofits in two ways. First, someone can stumble into the nonprofit world on their quest for the one job that will satisfy their every need (does this even exist?). With the rise in volunteering happening in our society and all of this in between time, people entering the nonprofit world may be searching for a passion that does not exist. This will affect their effectiveness within the organization. Secondly, those passionate and effective in the nonprofit world may have many aspects of the social justice world that they wish to tackle, may become burnt out quickly or may feel that their voice is no longer new and fresh. They leave in search of a passion lost or dwindling. The passionate feel they are becoming ineffective and the unpassionate sometimes are ineffective.

What if our views of our futures were less idealized? The nonprofit world would be overrun with passionate people who would not feel the pressure to make quick change and move on. However, this also has a downside. It is beneficial to have new ideas and minds come into the nonprofit world. This helps them stay original and current and prevents burn-outs and apathy from the staff. But it is also a shame to see effective leaders bow out because it is expected of them.

And so I resume my search for a graduate school or a part time job or a career track that probably has nothing to do with my major. And my grandfather will assure me that I can move around and still be successful, still make it. But will the nonprofits?

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