In last Monday’s post, ”How to Prepare Students for the Global Economy and Workforce,” I described the paradoxical results of a Colligan Market Research survey in which over 500, 18-24 year olds were unprepared for the global economy and workforce in spite of a desire to learn about the world and the technical tools to do so at their finger tips (24 September, 2012).
Another potential bit of irony also seems evident. Typically when I listen to college students of this age group, I only hear them speak of careers in the for-profit sector. They express that they wish to pursue being CEOs, lawyers, game designers, and other such professions. Even as they share their distrust of business, they still want to be a part of the for-profit field (see Barry Salzburg’s, “What Millennials Want Most: A Career That Actually Matters,” Forbes. 3 July, 2012). Older students share similar sentiments, as if a career in the for-profit sector is the only option.
It’s time to consider another career approach. Here are three reasons to consider a non-profit career.
To Meet the Needs of Generational Groups Better
The Pew Research Center offered a concise summation of what each generational group was looking for in a career and more generally, out of life ( “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” 24 February, 2010). Drawing from this summation, it’s also possible to add what each group may gain from pursuing a career in the non-profit sector:
• The Millennial Generation (born after 1980) places a higher value on the social side of life (e.g., family, friends, and staying connected via social media) and helping others than on making money, getting rich, or becoming famous. They expect change to be enacted and managed by the government, and they are willing to get involved (e.g., the Occupy movement).
Those in this group should consider that non-profits advocate and support social issues with a goal of enacting positive change. These organizations are also in need of tech savvy digital natives who can help create and maintain their online presence, especially in regard to fundraising and events.
• Generation X (born 1965-1980) is described as “savvy entrepreneurial loners” and “slightly more conservative” than the Millennials but more liberal in their social values than their elders.
What better way to pursue an entrepreneurial future than with a non-profit? Gen X-ers could define a need, create a mission statement, gather board members, and direct their own organization focused on their own area of social need and value. As this group includes those who helped foster the economic boon of the 1980s, perhaps their talent could be applied more directly within the non-profit sector.
• Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have concerns about the government increasing the debt to help those in need; they are more in favor of private means of assistance. They are more affiliated with faith-based organizations than the younger generations.
Although directing the burden of social assistance away from the government has its critics, this group demonstrates that they practice their belief by being regularly involved in private organizations that are offering assistance to those in need. Anyone in this group seeking a job change or new career should find a comfortable place in a non-profit organization.
• The Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) as “children of the Great Depression and World War II,” are conformists and civic minded; they quietly go about their duty.
For this group, too, working in the non-profit sector may be a good fit. Not only do they tend to be civic minded, but they also possess the understanding that often an organization needs to function along certain guidelines. This is true with non-profits that must adhere to rules and regulations governing fundraising, grant management, and other such areas if they are to maintain their non-profit status. The
Silent Generation seems a natural fit for this.
• The Greatest Generation (born prior to 1928) was given credit by Ronald Reagan as the one that “saved the world” by fighting and winning World War II.
Granted, this group includes those who are 84-years-old and above, but who better to advise the younger generational groups on how to save the world, especially within non-profit organizations? Most of the younger generations place a high value on their elders, too.
What is perhaps most telling in terms of the non-profit sector being worthy of consideration for a career, is that slightly more than one-half of the Pew study respondents from the Millennial, Gen-X, and Baby Boomer groups have volunteered their time in the last month. For The Silent Generation, this drops to 39% and no results were reported for The Greatest Generation; this may be more because of age rather than desire (“The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” 24 February, 2010). Why not dedicate oneself full-time to a non-profit career?
To Gain Job Experience
Another reason to consider the non-profit sector is to gain valuable job experience. It’s a common complaint among Millennials and even perhaps the other generational groups who may be in situations such as a career change, that they can not find a job without experience, but they can’t get experience without a job. As Janet Cranford of Career Change Pathways suggests, you can use volunteer positions to transition to a new career. Additionally, by volunteering, you can explore career options and opportunities while networking in your field of choice. Finally, Cranford provides some links to sites, such as Volunteer Match where you can look for opportunities by entering your zip code.
If you do volunteer, be sure to work hard and professionally as you would at any paid position. Continue to express interest in and look for paid positions that you can turn into a career.
To Have a Global Reach and Impact
The third main reason to consider working for a non-profit is to have a global reach and impact in a way that gives life meaning. Joanne Fritz recently polled her readers on the “Top Reasons to Work at a Non-Profit,” and they unanimously responded with this desire to help others and have a life that is defined by more than just dollars. As respondent “Laura” stated: “I have found most of the people I’ve worked with in the nonprofit world are just exceptional. They tend to be well educated, have varied interests, and have a set of values that includes a lot of caring about other people and what is best for the community.”
Although there are many options for gaining an education and pursuing a lifelong career, don’t overlook the potential a career in the non-profit sector may have for meeting your personal and professional needs.
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