If your parents are anything like mine they have two priorities for you: that you find a career that makes you happy and that you have financial security in your post-college life. And if you’re anything like me, what makes you happy may not be correlated with financial security.
Among the many things I learned while a student at BC, two have stuck with me the most. The first is that I want to be a woman for others. At the end of the day, I want to have evidence that the way I’ve spent my time has positively impacted Others. The second are “the three key questions” that I learned via the Halftime retreat and which serve as reflection prompts for thinking about my work: 1) Does it bring me joy? Am I good at it? Does the world need me to do it?
The challenge of the three key questions is that, when answered honestly, they may lead you to an uncomfortable place. One reason for this might be due to the fact that when you can answer “yes” to all of those questions, you may find yourself in a career at odds with what society, and your parents, considers a “real job.” Nonprofit work can be rewarding, but it’s not particularly lucrative. And since “real” is often defined by the job’s associated salary, you may be resigned to live in that tension.
Another reason for the discomfort is that you may discover that you cannot answer each of the questions in the affirmative, forcing you to make a hard decision about potentially changing jobs. This can be true whether or not you’re already working in a nonprofit. For me, being a woman for others meant that I made a deliberate choice to always work in the public or nonprofit sector.(That, and the promise of loan forgiveness after 10 years.) But all jobs are not made equal, and it can be uncomfortable to realize that, even if the mission is aligned, you may not be good at it or it may not bring you joy.
Throughout my career, I’ve had to confront the answers to those questions a number of times. After teaching for two years in New York City following graduation, I recognized that, while it was something the world needed, it did not bring me joy. During graduate school for public policy, I realized that while there was a need for quantitative policy analysis, I was not particularly good at it. For the last four years, I worked at a small nonprofit in Boston with a mission to improve financial security for vulnerable Americans. I recently decided to leave that job because it did not bring me joy.
I am still searching for a role that optimizes my ability to be a woman for others, and which allows me to live with reasonable security. While uncomfortable at times, the journey has provided me a lot of insight about myself as well as some amazing experiences. I will always believe that nonprofit and public service work is worthwhile and I will continue to ask myself: Does it bring me joy? Am I good at it? And does the world need me to do it?
—Amaris Kinne ’05