Career Corner: Knowing Where to Start the Search, Part I

By Meg Busse.

Some of my ‘must read’ blogs are work related, some aren’t, but I love when there is cross-over from professional to personal. One of my ‘personal’ blogs is Reclaiming Miss Havisham. This is one of my favorite blogs for a lot of reasons, but in particular because of the blogger’s candor. In one of her recent posts she links to a Post Secret postcard and follows it up with her own secret that she’s quitting her job. She’s quitting because, “In a nutshell, my ethics are out of sync with the ethics of my supervisors and boss, and I can’t live with myself if I stay.”

From Flickr user Gideon (Creative Commons)

Have you heard one of your friends say something similar? Have you been frustrated about this in your own job? If so, you’re not alone; a USA Today article cites statistics that suggest that if the younger workers are going to “work many, many hours, they need to work in a place where they’re doing some good,” according to Claudia Tattanelli, CEO of Universum.

Corporate employers are responding, but there are plenty of job seekers who are looking to the nonprofit sector for a wholly different type of career.

However, one of the obstacles to finding a nonprofit career can be knowing where and how to start looking. David Schachter of NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service created a great self-assessment called The Four Lens exercise that allows job seekers to assess how they see themselves doing good in the world.

In short, ask yourself what motivates you to do good work? Is it:

An issue area such as environmental conservation, women’s rights, or prison reform?

An organization that you are passionate about such as Incight, Guitars not Guns, or the Public Broadcasting Service?

A position or specific job? I’ve only met one person who wants to be an accountant in a nonprofit organization, a few who want to be in nonprofit HR, and many who are interested in the ED or a leadership role. Whatever your passion, you can find any position in the nonprofit sector that exists in the corporate world. Even stockbroker.

A way of working within the system? This could include the scope of the work (local, national, or international), the type of work (direct service, advocacy, philanthropy, capacity building, policy, research), or the type of organization (well-funded and established or grassroots and on the fringe).

As you contemplate a career change or assess your current job, this Four Lens exercise can help narrow your search so that you have a more focused image of how you want to create a positive change in the world—and how you see your career fitting into that picture.

For more information on the Four Lens exercise and self-assessment in the nonprofit job search, see Chapter Three of The Idealist Guide.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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