Help! I Hate My Non-Profit Job!

It’s OK. You can admit it. You hate your nonprofit job!

“You’re so lucky to work for such a worthy cause,” says everyone you meet. 

Your response:

Sure, working for a “worthy cause” has its benefits. The feeling that you are actively contributing to a better world shouldn’t be undervalued. (I get calls from people each week that would give their first born child to have a career that meant something greater than making money).

But, if you hide under your chair every time a weekend-philanthropist friend invites you to volunteer or donate to their cause du jour, it might be a sign that you’ve had enough of do-gooding. 

If this is you, the first step is acceptance

Accept that it’s OK to feel this way. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the world. 

The second step is to dig a little deeper and try to figure out why you feel this way and what you want to do about it

Here are three questions to ask yourself (or have a coach ask you):


#1 IS IT ME OR IS IT THEM?

When we are frustrated, unhappy or bored in our jobs, it’s easy to blame everyone else. “Can you believe that so and so did this? “My boss has no clue how to manage a team!” “They don’t appreciate how hard I work.”

Here’s the thing. You can distract yourself from the truth but the truth isn’t going anywhere. You can blame everyone around you for your unhappiness and the truth might be that you simply don’t vibe with your colleagues. It happens. But you also might want to ask the question: What am I avoiding by blaming my frustration on others? 


#2 IS IT TIME FOR A SABBATICAL?

One of my clients was feeling dissatisfied in her job at a leading social change organization but wasn’t sure if she wanted to quit. So, instead of quitting, she took a month-long sabbatical and drove across the US. She returned with more clarity about what she wanted out of her career.

Nonprofit work can be emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. It’s hard to know what’s underneath our feelings of dissatisfaction if we can’t see through the haze of exhaustion. Ideas need space to flourish. 

Talk to your boss about taking a sabbatical. In most cases, an organization would rather do without you for a month than lose you forever. 


#3 ARE YOU TOO REMOVED FROM THE IMPACT?

This one is for all the behind-the-scenes people, like the hardworking development and administration staff. 

Everyone knows that program people have all the fun, right? :-) That is a bit tongue in cheek but the truth is that, often, if we aren’t directly witnessing the impact of the organization, we can lose touch with the feeling that our work matters, and that is really where the magic of nonprofit work lies. 

If this sounds like you, ask yourself how you can reconnect with the impact. 

(BTW, the reverse is also true. Program people can be burned out from being too close to the impact. If this is the case, it might be time for you to take a behind-the-scenes role). 

One last thing. If you are working for a nonprofit organization, there’s a good chance that you are motivated by creating a better world. You owe it to yourself (and the world) to show up powerfully in your work. If you aren’t able to do that in your current job, let’s talk and find a way to make a change.

Kirsten Bunch