1. I knew that after obtaining a business degree, I didn’t want to work in corporate America
At my 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 non-profit calls for altruistic minded individuals.
2. I had no real professional experience
Most jobs that are available for recent graduates are only 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 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. Entry-level positions suck
If I had 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 anymore. Not that I have never 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
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 highly paid professional 101?”
I asked myself What do you love? more often than usual. I decided that I was not going to settle. If I had to take a year or two off to build capital that was okay and I was not going to let the successes or opinion of others around me 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 me started.
These have all played a significant role in why a stint in national service and a career headed in the nonprofit sector has worked for me. I have had the opportunity to fill multiple roles, meet people of different backgrounds and socioeconomic walks of life and the opportunity to make a greater and 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.”