Working for AmeriCorps through a local non-profit and poverty initiative, has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. After graduating from college, I realized that I went into over $40,000 of debt to not have a clue of what it was that I wanted to do. In fact, college instead provided with insight on where I didn’t want to end up. I chose nonprofit for a few reasons.
1. I knew that right after obtaining a business degree, I didn’t want to work in corporate America.
In Business School the nonprofit sector was almost non-existent. It was always corporate this and corporate that. More than half of my business professors painted us the picture of a young, burgeoning professional, striving to make it to the top. I would often question why business professors chose to teach my male counterparts and me the same stuff. The corporate world is full of double standards.
Let’s be honest for a second here, even in the 21st century, gender discrimination is still very much alive and continues to impact the lives of millions of Americans every day. I raised this question in class one day after reading an article on the subject in the New York Times. If women are such a net plus to corporate America, why are they still a small minority on Wall Street and in the executive suite? An overwhelming percentage of nonprofit employees are women. It simply fits us. This may be because women are more altruistic and nonprofit calls for altruistic individuals.
2. I had no real professional experience.
Most jobs that are available for recent graduates are looking for experience, and this I didn’t have. Post-graduation, I spent most of six months searching for a decent job with perky benefits. I saw ads for positions asking for a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Great, I had that. However, listed underneath, came totally unrealistic qualifications for a recent graduate: “Over four years of experience in a management role, 1-3 Years of Design experience using Adobe Creative Suite Applications, Proficiency in hieroglyphics and bird calls, and must absolutely love excel.” Come on people, who “loves” excel!?
3. Most entry-level positions suck.
Had I started my career as an entry level “marketing professional,” I would have most likely ended up doing mundane, tedious tasks that supervisors do not have the time nor patience to do themselves. Not that I haven't found myself hogging the copy machine or stuffing folders, but nonprofits tend to offer young people more leadership opportunities and room for growth than other sectors.
4. I didn’t want to end up hating my job.
According to an employee engagement survey, in the corporate sector, out of the 5.4 million working adults, 52% of employees say they are not engaged in their work. Business school stressed obtaining a highly paid and reputable position, but what happened to being passionate about your career? Why isn’t there a “Make sure you love what you do, or else you could end up a miserable but well paid professional 101” class?
I begin to ask myself What do you love? more often than usual. I decided that I wasn't going to settle. If I had to take a year or two off to build self-capital that was okay and I wasn't going to let the successes or opinions of others interfere.
I knew I was passionate about helping people so I begin to seek more substantive work. I decided that at 22, I was in the right place to pursue what I love. I was a young professional with a clean slate. I had a creative side, a pretty impressive academic background, and a passion for helping people. I had what I needed to at least get started.
These have all played a significant role in why a stint in national service and a career in this sector has worked for me. I have had the opportunity to fill multiple roles, meet people of different backgrounds, socio-economic walks of life and the opportunity to make a greater more widely reaching impact than I would have in any other field. Working for a nonprofit as a national service member gave me a wide breadth of knowledge of how organizations work. It gave me a new found understanding of my purpose and passion. So I end with this piece of advice for the recent graduate on the verge of choosing a career: “Never pick up a hammer before you know what you want to build, and don’t decide what you want to build until you know why”.
This article was written for a popular blog over 2 years ago, and I remain confident that the public sector is the place for me. I now have an ample amount of experiences in the government and nonprofit sector that has positively influenced my career path.