I recently read an article on The Guardian’s website about how working for a charity can make you happier. The author used two nonprofit professionals as examples of how working in the third sector can make you feel liberated. Both had strong personal connections to the causes for which they worked. They felt happier because they were working for something they believed in. There was purpose to their work. And though they certainly don’t make as much as they would if they were in the corporate world, they also didn’t find themselves in aggressive work environments where you have to really push – sometimes with questionable ethics – to get ahead.
I started working in the nonprofit sector in 2004 because I was looking to have more meaning to my work and life. I had been working in marketing, advertising and media sales. While I loved the writing and the ability to be creative, it just didn’t feel right to use my talents to sell things that really didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
I found myself working in social services for a behavioral health agency in Maine. I met some incredible people and, like most people who work in the sector, wore many hats in my part-time job. I also became passionate about helping disadvantaged people. Working in the mental health and substance abuse treatment field, you hear a lot of heartbreaking stories. But you also hear a lot of inspiring stories. Stories of people beating the odds and overcoming some incredible hurdles in their lives. Those, of course, were the stories that I loved to hear and write about. Though the pay may not be great in these positions, you can’t beat the human to human interaction. Your job becomes a part of you and your work keeps you fueled.
When the organization I was working for moved its location in 2011, I decided to pursue more freelance writing jobs and consulting work and really grow my blog. I was fortunate enough to also stay with my former employer doing work on a contract basis until just last month. While I worked with other nonprofits, NGOs, entrepreneurs and small businesses in the meantime, I wasn’t sure what I would do to supplant that income. I was getting that same feeling that I had right before I started seeking out work in the nonprofit sector. It was even stronger as I was editing my book, Simple Giving.
I guess this is a roundabout way of announcing that I am now the director of development for Tedford Housing, a nonprofit organization in my town that has several initiatives to end homelessness.
I decided to take a look at what was out there for regular work in Maine’s nonprofit world. I had two criteria in order for me to consider the job: I would have to have the ability to make change and, since I am so used to working for myself, I would need to be in some sort of director or managerial role.
Not only does my new job fit that criteria, I also have a 5-minute commute and Fridays off. I am elated that I am able to do this work in my own community, something I had not yet had the opportunity to do.
I’ll still be taking on writing and consulting jobs. And blogging, of course. Oh, and there’s that book I have coming out too. I guess you could say I’m kind of on fire right now, which makes me very very happy.
Does your work make you happy?
Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.