by Min Y. Chong
follow me on Twitter: @minychong
As nonprofit employees, our jobs aren’t just where we spend our days to make money and keep occupied. Our jobs are where we invest our time, energy, and passion. Our organizations aren’t just buildings and people that we spend the hours of 9 to 5 with. They are the communities for our causes and our constant collaborators. We choose to work in this sector to satisfy our hearts, our hopes, and our sense of justice. Our jobs are extremely personal and we feel strongly tied to them. As young nonprofit professionals, the bond is even more involved. These are our first organizations, mentors, causes, and often, the first places where we made change and witnessed the good the sector produces.
All of which is precisely what makes even the thought of leaving feel so terrible. Our coworkers and organizations have invested their extremely hard-earned and limited resources in us. They need and count on us to be there. But little by little, we outgrow our positions and start to need more. Even at our worst, our least inspired, satisfied, and driven, we still add value to our organizations. But is this how we best serve our missions or ourselves?
Trust your instincts.
You pour your energy into helping your organization fulfill its mission. But, does your organization still give you energy? A one-way relationship is a path to burnout. And if you’re spending your days browsing the internet for potential partners, complaining about yours, or coveting others, then the big question is already there. Decide whether to stay or go and truly commit to making the best of whatever your decision is. If you decide to stay, know why you do, choose to do well, and actively work to make your experience valuable.
If you decide to go, then give up the guilt and move on.
Growing apart and needing more is just a part of the process. We are young and not looking to settle. We need adventure, excitement, constant challenge, and room to grow. We are early in our careers and our capacities to learn are at their peaks. Our organizations—and certainly our positions—are less nimble than we are and just can’t always grow with us. We need to give ourselves the freedom to pursue paths that can keep up with us. Leaving our jobs isn’t about losing our passion, it’s about finding it.
The best thing about working in our sector, is that it’s all about hope and possibility. We seek to answer “what if” and make it a reality. We have visions for the future and high hopes for the world. Our roles in these visions are integral and we should treat ourselves respectfully. We don’t have to stay disillusioned or disheartened. There is no less need in the growing nonprofit sector for our skills, talents, and desire to do good. Let us strive to be where our energies are highest, where our passions are most fueled, and where our potentials are greatest, even if it means that we need to move on.
Share your thoughts or experience on leaving your first job (or any job). What was the thinking process that helped you reach a decision to leave or not to leave? If you left, how did you break your decision to your boss? If you stayed, how did you make sure you would continue to have a valuable experience?