What is doing what you love, anyway?
“Doing what you love!” is a process. A process that takes a goal, a plan A, a plan B and dedication. Being a liberal arts major is extremely competitive in the job market. I know. International Development is an even more competitive field. I get it. But things that are worth fighting for are like this. For some, working in an aid organisation will not happen at the first try. Does that mean that they never will be able to work in development? That’s an absurd thought. Many businesses are renowned for their strong corporate responsibility areas. You can always start somewhere that will give you an edge. Look at how many Foundations are there and what are they looking for. Start building a good reputation.
I know it’s easier said than done, but I also know that discipline is the only way to achieve most things in life that are not just given to us. Do you want to manage projects for a non-profit? How about becoming a great project manager and switching to non-profit? Try government positions on environment or poverty alleviation.
We live in a global world with global opportunities! If you are from a Mercosur country you don’t have to have a work permit to work in Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Chile or Bolivia. If you are from Europe within the European Union, you don’t need a work permit. Of course, between regions is a different thing, but that means that you can apply for national positions in those countries.
Having relevant work experience outside development is still better than having no relevant work experience. I am not saying: “give up from development organizations”! Any time you’re tempted to think ‘Should I do this OR that?’ instead, ask yourself, “Is there a way I can do this AND that?’ It’s surprisingly frequent that it’s feasible to do both things. I’m trying to reassure you that if you don’t have the money to keep trying to break in to this field through the right internships and fellowships, you don’t need to give up your dream completely. There is always an alternative path… You just have to know where you want to reach.
These are some ways to help you make better decisions, or at least be surer of yourself:
1. Ironically, the first way is to find ways to try and prove yourself wrong, and do everything in your power to find out what the reality of your situation is. Talk to people, try things out in small, low-risk ways and play your own devil’s advocate.
2. Get some distance before deciding: Avoid getting lost in short-term emotional attachment. Use the 10/10/10 test. How will you feel about this decision in 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months? How about 10 years?
3. Prepare to be wrong: “A study showed that when doctors reckoned themselves ‘completely certain’ about a diagnosis, they were wrong 40% of the time.”
Part of our problem is that we spend much of our time of autopilot during our decision-making processes. Set up ‘tripwires’ to knock yourself out of autopilot and force yourself to reassess your situation on a regular basis. These could be deadlines, budget limits, or even giving the feeling that ‘something’s not right’ a name, so you can recognise it and follow a process to check it out.
Mostly, your decisions are not irreversible… It’s normal to be uncertain or anxious… There is no right path and you are never going to be 100% sure of your decisions, but you can be sure of who are… Or at least who you want to be. You can choose to make the most of any job as long as you know your purpose. Don’t despair if “Doing what you love” does not seem real all the time… Or it seems like a far away dream. You will always have choices.
All the best,