Wanted: A decent job while working for a good cause

iTEACH - Jose Claro () - March 22, 2011 - 12:00am

Inviting people to work for a foundation school during a job fair is truly a daunting task. It is easy to feel discouraged during the first few hours as students prefer to crowd the companies known to offer high-paying jobs. Despite the creative banners and presentations prepared beforehand, all of these seemed useless when competing with famous brand and named corporations. Later into the day, however, after a trickle of applicants, most of whom seemed lost or just applying for the sake of it, there would still be a considerable number of students who would bravely enter our booth, read our profile and seriously fill out the application form, knowing that deep in their hearts, money is secondary only to the convictions, principles, and realizations they had learned in the classroom.

Organizations that aim for structural social change and development, and are essentially non-profit and non-governmental, belong to what is called the third sector. Fr. John Caroll, SJ, a Jesuit priest who has devoted his life studying Philippine society and working for its advancement, describes social development as going beyond almsgiving. The objective is to create a more lasting kind of change that can be institutionalized and sustained for the betterment of the poor, and eventually encourage the country’s economic development.

Year in and year out, there are many fresh graduates who are willing to risk working for an NGO or volunteer group to help the country. The main obstacle to their noble desires is that applying for such is essentially a jump into the unknown. There are a few documented articles about the specific nature of work in an NGO and far fewer published stories of people who made a decent living despite working for a good cause.

Having worked for a school that is also an NGO foundation, there are a few things I would like to share with some of those who might be considering a job in social development. First and foremost, look for an established and reputable organization, or at least one that has links to credible companies and religious orders. The worst enemy of an NGO foundation is the tendency for disorganization and mediocrity. As the nature of the job addresses very extensive problems, some well-intentioned groups have unfortunately been unable to manage their organizations. Ultimately, this would mean landing a job that requires endless paperwork, most of which seem conflicting and redundant. Working for an unstable NGO would also equate to employees spending a lot of idle time in the company while waiting for the experienced workers to finish their immediate commitments. Since the veterans of the foundations are too busy with a certain project, they spend little time attending to the training and supervision of employees.

Another reason for choosing an established NGO is the reality that the third sector is as vulnerable to corruption and fiscal mismanagement as the public and private sectors are. Joining a reputable NGO would make sure that you are working for a company that has zero tolerance for corruption and inefficiency.

Once you are able to find a good organization, you will soon realize that working for such is most days, not much different from working in a corporate company. There are tons of paperwork to be done, most of which deal with feasibility studies, marketing proposals, presentations, solicitation plans, and the like. Accomplishing these would require a considerable dose of skill, discipline, and hard work.

What separates the job from other traditional modes of work lies in its moments of breakthroughs and victories. In the corporate world, achievements are often temporary, as tomorrow’s daily grind brings endless challenges to be overcome. In the third sector, achievements take root in the difference one makes in people’s lives. Victories are lasting whenever one is witness to how your hard work has made a permanent impact on the lives of people otherwise destined to wallow in poverty. Thomas Merton writes, “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

Seven years ago, I passed on the opportunity of applying for a job in an NGO because of the many questions I had that no one could seem to answer. Five years later, the calling to directly serve God and country did not go away and kept manifesting itself every time I hear stories of poverty. I was indeed very fortunate to be able to find an NGO school run by reputable and success-driven individuals and though there are many days of frustrations and disappointments, nothing could compare to the meaning and contentment of working in the service of others.

And so for the fresh grads out there with a desire to be men and women for others but still have lingering questions about job security, the only message seems to be:

Jump into the unknown. If you’re fortunate enough, you’ll soon find yourselves landing in the arms of God.

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