Exposed: Who Are You Outside the Office? by Ashanthi De Silva

YNPN Board of Directors Speak!

I recently graduated with a Masters in Public Administration, and am quickly learning one very important lesson that somehow escaped me during my studies: your field of study does not necessarily translate into what you will actually do once you graduate. Oh, and one other thing: your ‘career’ may not start immediately as you would have hoped. As a young professional who is currently on the job search, I realize the next position I take will most likely not be an exciting career move in the right direction. Given the sluggish growth of our economy, this is a harsh dose of reality that I must accept.

However, this is not an excuse for not doing anything! I’ll be honest – job searching is an emotional roller coaster, but once you accept this (and it took me up until last week to do so…okay so maybe it’s really as I’m writing this), it will give you the freedom to look beyond just “getting a job.” More and more I am realizing that many people’s greatest accomplishments thus far in life have been self-initiated and unpaid. A job does not translate into your self worth. It is what you choose to do with your time, whether you are receiving compensation or not, that builds your skills and your character.

This leads me to the best suggestion I can offer fellow nonprofit and for profit job seekers: take time to discoveryour passion(s) and skills, and then make time to use them! Volunteer, join active groups, take a class, and start to develop these skills on your own. You don’t need a job to dictate this. Have you always wanted to work with youth, lead a community project, or learn more about fundraising and development? Or perhaps you’d like to tap into your ‘inner artist’ and learn photography or painting? There are more than enough opportunities in Chicago to do so. I guarantee you will feel better in general, and more focused in your job search once you develop who you are outside of the workplace.

Here are some sites that can be useful for finding a volunteer opportunity:

VolunteerMatch

Chicago Cares

In addition to this, check out your neighborhood’s community development association or center. Not only will it be convenient, but there will be multiple opportunities to use your creativity and take initiative on projects that will positively impact your community.

For artist/hobby groups: Meetup.com

Ashanthi De Silva currently serves on YNPN Chicago’s Executive Board as an At-Large Board Member and is an enthusiastic nonprofit supporter. She holds a Masters in Public Administration from The Ohio State University and has worked in the sector for five years, mainly in program development and management, as well as resource development.

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