To profit or not, is that the question?

To profit or not, is that the question?

Some of you who are following me might know that I’ve been exploring the question whether having a for-profit background is an advantage or disadvantage for someone looking to transition into a job in the non-profit sector.

I recently posted a poll on Facebook with that same question and all respondents indicated that it’s an advantage — or at least it should be. Two of them remarked that it really depends on the hiring manager and what he or she is looking for in a candidate.

To that I would add that the specific segment of the sector plays a major role. In the Netherlands at least, most positions with national and local government require previous experience in similar jobs in that same sector. In effect, certain governmental jobs are pretty much closed to those lacking that experience. In this instance, it’s not the corporate ‘stigma’ that hurts your chances; it’s not meeting the requirements.

Ideological fit

In other non-profit areas, such as NGOs working on human rights, your for-profit background may or may not benefit you. Most people from that field that I’ve spoken to about this tell me it’s not a disadvantage as long as your resume shows you do have at least some experience working on the issues the particular NGO cares about. This makes sense. Greenpeace, for instance, would probably not hire someone who has been working for Shell their entire life. I understand there must be some ideological fit between job seeker and future employer.

At the same time, we live in an age where especially men and women in their thirties are questioning whether their work is having a positive impact on the world. This generation has already changed its perspective on work-life balance, increasingly opting for a 4-day work week to have time do to other things, like volunteering or spending more quality time with family and friends. But the work itself is also being scrutinized more and more — all of this is part of a quest toward finding meaning in life.

Time to change direction

So, what is meaningful?

I’m sure that depends on whomever you ask. But generally speaking, for something to be meaningful it has to go beyond your personal needs. It has to impact the world around you in some way, shape or form. You could do that through organizing fundraisers, researching sustainable energy sources, or volunteering your time to give language lessons to refugees seeking shelter in your country. It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as the result is meaningful and impactful.

Is this to say that all for-profit jobs are inherently meaningless? Of course not. But I would encourage everyone to examine carefully their career choices, especially when you’re in your thirties. You still have time to change direction if you want, but don’t wait too long.

Changing careers takes time and a lot of hard work. You have to prove yourself all over again. This is the journey I am on right now. In a way, I’m sure it’s a journey that will never truly end. In the meantime, I try to take it one step at a time, and enjoy every little milestone along the way.

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