The Organizer #6 | Personal Growth

How do I build a nonprofit career that meets my personal needs and goals? No matter how old you are, you deserve a plan. The sector needs people who are willing to dream, make plans, demand respect, and serve.

It’s okay to think about your career

Hello, lovely person. It’s today. You’ve found time to read this. Breathe in, then out. Hey look, you’re alive!

Whatever you do (or did) for a living, wherever you volunteer, whatever organization benefits from your time … remember that you are a person before you are a title.

You breathe in. And out. You eat, sleep, laugh, itch, and learn. And you care.

Sometimes, in the social impact world, we put “care” first. Specifically, we put “care for others” first. We put it ahead of the eating and sleeping and laughing. That’s noble, but it’s not always good.

You’re creating your future

People aren’t often encouraged to think about their careers in the nonprofit sector. The dynamics of ambition are messy for a million different reasons (some legit, some not).

At the same time, everyone worries about the future sometimes. Even when we love what we do, we all wonder occasionally if we are making the right career choices.

If we talked about this more often, those worries and questions might provoke less shame and anxiety.

So today, you’re invited to think about yourself.

What is my job on the planet? What is it that needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?

― Buckminster Fuller

Don’t think about what your organization needs or what you believe the world expects from you. Think about the activities and environments that light you up. Think about the experiences and opportunities that would help you grow.

You deserve a plan

No matter how old you are, how often you work (if at all), or what stage you’re at in your career, you deserve a plan.

I could take up more space writing about why planning for your future, but Stacey Abrams does it so much better.

If you’re ready to start, check out Abrams’ handy exercise booklet.

Her exercises explore topics like:

  • Ambition
  • Fighting Fear and Otherness
  • Building Your Own Board of Advisors
  • Money Matters
  • Handling Mistakes
  • Winning at Work-Life Jenga

Pick one and answer the questions. Even if you don’t write them down or make a spreadsheet, just spend a minute or two this week constructing a vision of your future.

If you want more context or motivation, read this excerpt from her book. If you like it, you can find the entire book at your favourite book retailer.

(As an aside, “Lead from the Outside” is one of my favourite books. I recommend it to basically everyone thinking about a career in social impact work. Or when it’s a day that ends in “y”. It’s great on so many levels.)

Your career is a service

Yes, thinking about your future is good for you.

But let’s be honest — you probably put other people’s needs ahead of your own. If thinking about your career is uncomfortable, remember that your career is a service.

The nonprofit sector needs people who are willing to push boundaries and who expect respect. The sector needs people are willing to dream, make plans, and demand more from the world. The sector also needs more people who are both ambitious and driven by a sense of service.

If taking 10 minutes to consider your future feels selfish, then don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the colleagues who will get to work with the best version of you. Make a plan, because others are following in your footsteps. Do it for the good you could do.

Which question speaks to you?

How to build a nonprofit career plan

  • Download Exercises from Minority Leader by Stacey Abrams here.

The Organizer is a weekly newsletter for people working to create equitable and sustainable communities. Whether you are part of a nonprofit, a charity, or a social enterprise, this newsletter is for you.

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