And I Am A Happy Man...

I have no regrets quitting a corporate job. It's one of the best decisions I have ever made. It's been over 10 years. Not that I don't like corporate environments or something. They have their place, I wanted to follow my heart and make a different choice, thats all. I have a paid job with a charity.

What it takes ?

One requirement is that, we should be ready to let go of a few things we are usually used to. It requires a certain inner discipline and less priority to outward things. We should be ready for the "hard" kind of work, be willing to do any kind of work assigned to us, sometimes under tough conditions.  We should treat the beneficiaries as not much different from ourselves, treat them as dignified human beings, and empathize with their pain, suffering and basic needs. We should also have a certain personal integrity and strong sense of ethics.  

Also, some of us with dependent family members need to see whether we have the financial backing to quit a corporate job. In my case, we were not very well-off before my corporate job, but my parents were very understanding of my higher needs. I take reasonable care of them today and they often say it was a good decision. Of course, speaking just financially, it's not like they are totally "dependent" on me. They have some income from retirement sums. I am not married, so that set of questions is not applicable to me. Some day, I should write a fictional story on how to convince your young wife that you want to quit the corporate job and work for a charity.

The best way would be to work with local charities or find a favorite cause and work for it. You may feel they are not enough to help others. Does it help you ? We think we are serving others, but we are only serving ourselves, we find meaning and fulfilment and the opportunity to serve is only a means to a different kind of happiness. We may never be able help all the poor and alleviate all the poverty in the world, but by chipping in our weebit of service, we make our own lives fulfilling. A simple gesture of gratitude from a poor person can make your day and make you forget all the sweat, really.

What can I expect ?

In terms of the work environment, expect it to be similar to any other organisation. If you have the opportunity to work with the poor directly, you will enjoy it. It's also possible that there is too much work, you get tired and start shouting at people, then it beats the purpose of doing the good work. In other kinds of work, your daily tasks may be something not directly related to beneficiaries, but you know you are a part of the task chain that delivers the end benefit to them. Like keeping accounts, designing pamphlets, shooting video, maintaining equipment etc. There may be some bureacracy, may be some politics among the staff, may be some inefficiency or lethargy, all what you find in any other organisation. Charities are also made of humans and any organisation is what the individuals make it out to be.

In my case, for the most part, I write software and take care of IT infrastructure. Occasionally, there are other tasks. I am also qualified in Management, so I also get to comment on process improvements, techno-functional decisions. My English is good and I have a flair for legal stuff, so I also get chances to work with others on internal policy documents. I am creative, so I sometimes chip in for marketing and strategy. Fortunately, with the teams I work with, the structures are not too rigid or compartmentalized, so people from other sections can walk across my room and take my help and so can I. I have also worked for other sister institutions when they required additional hands.

For my nature of work, I don't touch base with the poor directly on a regular basis. In exceptional situations (like responding to disasters) where a few more hands are required, I chip in. But, it's okay to me even if I am not a field worker. I have the satisfaction of applying the skills that I am good at, to the causes I believe are good.

Will I be happy ?

While making the transition from a corporate job to a charity, it might help to know one thing. It's not as if our day-to-day professional conflicts or struggles will go away. They may be there. If we have team work issues or leadership issues in our corporate job, they will be there too. But only thing. we choose to go through the rigmarole for a cause that we find fulfilling. In the process, it might help us become better individuals, if we are also on that parallel journey of self-transformation. In my case, I also had an underlying spiritual urge that dates way back. Even as a teen, I volunteered at local charities. It's just that, over a period of years, slowly it grew. At some point in time, the train on that track overtook the corporate express.

I am not looking for job promotions, bonuses, designations. I dont' fall for "come, come, more money, more power" baits. If the goodies come my way, may they do and I accept them. I also have my weaknesses as a person and my constraints in terms of time and skills. Most of my colleagues at all levels, seem to like working with me and I have worked with all kinds of people. (Okay, that "seem" should be taken with a pinch of salt, LoL).

As to frustrations, stress, workload and other issues, they may be there too. It is not uncommon to find people working in a corporate doing part-time work for a charity in a great spirit of dedication, but a charity's clerk is pushing  the poor after five years of full-time job and dumping his personal frustrations on them. See Beyond Borders, a movie that briefly touches upon "compassion fatigue". (Okay, I saw it for Angelina Jolie, LOL). Like any other, you have to find ways to keep up your inspiration, reinforce it and enhance it from time to time.

We carry our mind wherever we go and it is our attitude that we manifest. Although, a favorable charity environment and volunteer culture that is true to its founding objectives and values, can greatly benefit the poor, the volunteers and the society when the good effects cascade. But it is within each of us to build that culture by bringing a better "me" to make a better "him/her".
thoughtbubble thoughtbubble
36-40, M
1 Response Dec 15, 2012

how would you know that your fictional advice to guys would work?;)

Haha, they won't know I am using them for testing it out. If it works, I'll sue them for royalty per wife per job. If it doesn't, I'll say it was meant to work only with fictional wives. :-) :-)