I’ve certainly had many moments throughout my career where I questioned my work environment and whether it was benefiting or hurting my career path. And then, unfortunately, I’ve also had moments where I evaluated whether that same environment was affecting my mental and physical health. Having a chronic condition that is directly affected by stress, this is something I must consider when taking a new job.A few weeks ago, on a day when I was feeling a bit defeated, I walked into a nearby coffee shop and almost cried, not because of the stress I felt from my work, but because a stranger was being nice to me.
This certainly took time, patience and dedication. But by staying true to who I am and encouraging a path that makes me want to write every day, I stumbled upon my own personal brand. While some readers may judge my writing or my stories, I do not. I write for myself, but I publish that writing on my blog to connect with people, to support progress and to give something back. This is true to who I am and how I thrive in the world. I am not happy unless I am somehow connecting with others, and I am not fulfilled unless I am doing something creative for myself.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve found that it’s easy to burn out when you’re involved in the work to make a difference, and you no longer see that difference. It’s easy to get distracted by the bottom line rather than focus on the big picture. It’s also just as frustrating to see your former colleagues and friends rise to a higher level in the for-profit world and wonder if it’s your sector that’s holding you back.
Are you undervalued? Are you underpaid? Did you make all the wrong choices in your career?
These are valid questions. But for me, it comes down to whether I am internally happy and satisfied with the work I am doing. If I am not satisfied with how I am spending 50+ hours of my week (this includes my DC commute), then my whole life is off kilter, and something needs to change. So, how do I change my circumstances? How do I prevent burnout? And how do I know when certain elements are outside of my control, and it’s time for a career move?
Here are seven keys to internal happiness that I’ve learned while working in the nonprofit sector.