Figuring out what career to pursue can be difficult, especially when your passions and personal interests are not as easily translatable to stable employment. I have always been an advocate for the idea that the desire to solve important world problems or follow your dreams should not be confined to fantasy. It's true, being a program director at a non-profit isn't going to earn you the salary of an oil tycoon, but that does not mean it's not worth pursuing!
There are numerous ways to strike a balance between doing what you love and paying the bills. Here are four possibilities to consider when figuring out how to translate your personal passion into professional success.
Think outside of the box. Pursing a job that you love may be easier than it seems, depending on where you're looking. For charitable interests, don't confine yourself to well-known non-profits or government positions. Finding more obscure organizations may provide much more room for growth, especially in smaller, growing organizations. Many for-profit corporations have nonprofit partnerships and private foundations, as well. Those opportunities usually provide higher compensation and they're a great place to make connections. Remember, if you do what you love, the money will come!
Look down the road. Think long-term! Ask yourself what your success is and then brainstorm different avenues to get there. Working in the for-profit world does not have to be the be all and end all. Joining a non-profit after years as an established professional affords you the ability to join at higher level. It is important to note that even if you can't do it now, you will always have the chance in the future.
Capitalize on opportunities outside the office. When your passion doesn't quite translate into long-term employment, consider pursing your dreams after 5:00 p.m. There are countless clubs, groups, and volunteer opportunities, especially in large cities, that cater to a variety of interests, from singing to archery to sky diving to community service. Those few hours of spare time in the evening or on the weekend can go further than you think in doing something you love and are often a great way to meet people with similar interests.
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. I hear it often: "there's no money in non-profits!" But this is not true! It's all about perspective, many non-profits offer competitive salaries for their employees as well as great benefits. And remember, you can negotiate more than just base pay. If holidays are important to you, perhaps you can negotiate more vacation time in your contract. If you live far from the office, you can negotiate a travel stipend. A job is more than just a paycheck; good morale, benefits, and strong leadership are almost as important as the money, so make sure to weigh all of your options before signing the offer letter.
Every child dreams of what they will grow up to be some day. Though it rarely turns out how it was originally envisioned, there are often many ways to find a fulfilling position. The reality of your life may in fact become greater and more successful then anything one could have imaged as a child.