by Greenbelter and career counselor Ronda Ansted Greenbelt has long been a city of idealism, starting with its inception as the first planned community in the United States. In fact, I moved to Greenbelt because I saw a commitment to community when I first visited here. There’s something about this area, perhaps its proximity to the nation’s most powerful political hub or NASA, which attracts scientists, engineers and others who ponder the nature of the universe, or a forest preserve with wildlife sightings to excite environmentalists. If you have a passion for social justice or politics or the environment or health or the arts, there are many organizations and agencies where you could contribute. You may have recently made a New Year’s resolution to find more meaningful work. But making a transition into the non-profit world is not always straightforward. As the owner of Be the Change Career Consulting, I work with changemakers, social entrepreneurs, activists, teachers, and international development workers to find their right-fit career. In addition, I’ve worked with people struggling with burn-out, bureaucracy fatigue, and confusion, wondering why the job or organization that they’ve long aspired to has ended up being their worst nightmare. If you are in any of these situations, here are some things to consider so that you can make the difference that you want to see in the world, and be happy to boot!
- Your enjoyment of your actual work is important! So many people who believe in a cause will jump in wherever they are needed. This can be great as a volunteer, but not for a sustainable career. If you love working with people but are spending your time writing reports and reviewing budgets, you are going to be miserable! Know who you are, what brings you joy, and what kind of work is aligned with your happy place.
- Embrace your passion! In my work, I often see people with a very diverse set of interests. When I dig a little deeper, however, there is often a specific story or cause that brings tears to their eyes. I encourage them to think about how they can make the biggest impact to the thing they care the most deeply about.
- Explore your options. Often there are several different career paths that a person can take that offers enjoyable work and the ability to make a difference. So, they need to see how that fits into the rest of their lives. Look for work that supports the life you want to live, not a job that dictates how your going to spend every hour.
- Talk to people. This is an effective way to explore your options, but it’s also an effective check on your assumptions. Our dreams about certain jobs, especially those with high status, often fall short of reality. People who are doing those jobs will give you the real deal. And even better, people are the most effective way to get a job. Not job boards, not resumes, not LinkedIn, but like-minded people who like and respect you. Talk to those people! Meet those people! Have a craft beer with those people at the New Deal!
- Ask for help, but be strategic about who you ask. Finding a job that you love is no easy task and a supportive community can make this much easier. However, asking your life partner or a parent pretty much guarantees some biased advice. It’s not their fault! They want what’s best for you! But we can’t always separate our desires for the people we love and from what’s actually best for them. Ask those people that you’ve met in step 4, talk to your alumni career center or another career development professional. You don’t have to do this alone!
One thing I will say about 2017 is that our entire country has seen things about our society that we want to change. If your heart has been stirred and you’re ready to contribute to make something better, think about how you can best leverage who you are to make a difference. 2018 is your year! Dr. Ronda Ansted is the founder of Be the Change Career Consulting, creator of My Career Design Studio (the first ever online gamified career coaching program), and former Sunday night bartender at the New Deal Café. Visit her Facebook page for a New Year, New Career Challenge or follow her on Twitter.