Real Talk: Good bits about working for charities
Contrary to my last post, it’s not all bad in the charity sector. Here are the best things about working for NGOs and the reasons I’m still in it.
#1. You’ll make connections.
I don’t mean useful networks (though there’s that too), I mean real human heart connections. The nature of the work means charities and NGOs often attract people who really care and who share your values, so it’s easy to make very genuine and long-lasting connections with colleagues. If you’re in a people-focused organisation too, you’ll often find yourself working with people who are at their most vulnerable and building trust means forming relationships that often go beyond office hours.
#2. You’ll be in a position to make change.
The world can feel like a miserable place sometimes, and like there’s little you can do to change it. Getting paid to try? It’s a position of real privilege. You’ll be able to hold your head high when our ecosystem/society collapses knowing you at least tried to do something about it.
#3. You’ll feel alright by the universe.
True altruism is a bit of a myth in my book… we’re all at least a little bit motivated by the feel good factor, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Getting up each day knowing you’re going to be doing your best to make someone’s life, or your community or your environment a brighter place is an awesome feeling, so embrace it.
#4. You’ll often feel inspired.
Because you’re doing good stuff, you’ll start hearing about all the other good stuff people are doing – projects, people or organisations that don’t get a lot of time in the spotlight because they’re too busy making a difference. It’s very heartening to hear about the efforts people are making on a daily basis to improve their communities. It’s also very helpful – because you’re all on the same side, there’s a lot of sharing of ideas, learning and resources and that can be very handy.
#5. You’ll often be able to shape the work.
There are not often layers and layers of bureaucracy in NGOs, so you’ll often be able to have a direct impact on the way the work is being carried out. There’s room for creative and lateral thinking and there’s often fairly flat staff structure so hierarchies won’t often slow you down.
#6. You’ll learn a lot.
It might be about the issue your organisation is working on, it might be skills you never thought you’d have to learn, it might be learning about yourself when faced with unique challenges – whatever it is, I guarantee you’ll learn a lot and it will add value to both your career and your character.
#7. There’s often flexibility.
Organisations ‘doing good’ often have a good handle on the importance of good work-life balance. It’s not just a meaningless phrase in an HR policy, it’s put into practice without formality.
When you need to work from home, when you’ve got sick kids, when you need to go part-time for awhile, in my experience NGO employers are a lot more comfortable with that flexibility because they know how hard the work is and how important other life stuff is to staff well-being.
Tessa Johnstone is a recovering cynic, fairweather cyclist, mum of one, and works in media and communications. She took the long way there, working and volunteering for a number of not-for-profits in New Zealand and overseas before she got here.