We can all admit that right now STEM careers are having their moment. Entering a Silicon Valley tech start-up is sexy. The salary is good. The perks seem lavish. The potential for growth looks unparalleled. It makes sense why everyone and their mothers would go for a job in the tech, or finance world.
Though I always toyed with the idea of working in a career in tech, I consistently found myself attracted to a career in non-profits. People don’t go into non-profits for the glitz and glamour. How could they? Non-profit jobs often come with long, sometimes even unconventional hours. They come with tired eyes and working with challenging, vulnerable populations. Yet, they can also instill a passion for helping those who were written off from having a good future. They can allow you to wear multiple hats, meet and hear so many unique stories, and make you grateful for your individual experience in life. Most of my friends often tell me that I’m pursuing the path of the “do-gooder.” But working in the field is so much more than that. Here’s why you should consider a career in this less than publicized field.
1. Passionate Co-Workers
The people I have met who work in non-profits are some of the most empathetic and also up-beat people I have ever met. In general, people do not go into non-profits for the salary. Most are drawn to the mission statement of the organization of choice. Moreover, there is a personal connection or relevance to the individual’s life. This could be ranging from a person working with incarcerated individuals because they had a relative in a similar situation, or someone helping small children get adequate educational resources because he/she witnessed failing school systems while growing up. Most are enthusiastic about putting in effort into helping people, and are willing to work odd hours to achieve a goal. Talking with these co-workers can ignite, or further fuel your own passion with working in this industry.
2. Tangible Impact
Unlike a lot of other fields, in a non-profit job you can see the tangible benefit almost immediately. You can witness how mentoring a low-income student can inspire a teenager to go away to college. You can see how an individual finish putting together a resume and cover letter can lead to a burst in confidence. You may see your statistical analysis be used in research for the organization. You may feel a surge of pride when you finally make a breakthrough with a difficult client, who never thought they could obtain a high school diploma, enroll in a GED class. Each day, you will get a chance make a measurable and concrete impact whether directly, or indirectly.
3. Developing a Diverse Skill-Set
Often times, no day looks the same in a non-profit. You can go from being a career coach, to crisis manager, to resident event planner in less than six hours. One of the crucial skills you gain working with people is working with clients, and co-workers who may be vastly different than you. Your communication skills will increase ten-fold. You will realize the majority of social justice topics are interwoven and deserves equal attention. Your exposure to social justice topics of racism, sexism, and police brutality will deepen- something harder to achieve in a more corporate setting.
All in all non-profit work can be life-changing and rewarding for both the employee and the individuals being served. If you want to get your feet wet in a career in non-profit, consider volunteering your service through organizations like New York Cares, NYC Service, or Volunteer America. It is a great way to explore a potential passion, and do some good too.