This week I talked with two friends who are searching for their place in this world. I can relate. 🙂 They are looking for different things, but they both expressed a desire to find ways to use their talents more directly and fully. Both are Christians, so that gave the conversations a certain shape. One friend spoke about social justice; he wants his life’s work to somehow make this world a better place for people who are under society’s heel or are neglected at the margins (my words, not his). He asked about finding work in a social justice organization, which made me think of the following bits.
Geography versus Mission
First, you have to be clear about your priority. Which is more important to you — (a) where you live or (b) the specific issue you engage or organization you work for? If you want to live in the PNW, you might look into World Vision. If you want to live in Colorado, check out Compassion International. But if you want to fight human trafficking, look at International Justice Mission (Washington DC), Exodus Cry (Grand View, MO), or Tiny Hands International (Lincoln, NE).
Nonprofit versus For-profit
Many of us start our search for our better-world-job in the nonprofit sector. Makes sense. And here is a list on my site to help you in that quest. If you want to support abused women, fight AIDS, drill wells, or respond to disasters around the world, you’re probably going to find yourself in the nonprofit world. But these are not the only organizations making the world a better place.
For-profit businesses are also important for a better world. Nonprofits rely heavily, though not exclusively, on donations and grants. These funds come from people and organizations that make money and have some left over to give to nonprofits. So they are important sources of funds, and certain ones are also doing good through their work. The rise of the social entrepreneur is an important feature of modern capitalism (since that’s what we’re working with here). And this is a lot bigger than just Toms.
If you’re into fair trade, check out Ten Thousand Villages or other similar importers (I toured two cooperatives in Guatemala and was really impressed with the difference they make). If your focus is the environment, check out basically everyone who contributes to 1% for the Planet.
So maybe you’ll find your work in an important nonprofit, or maybe you’ll find it in an equally important business. Or in a school, a hospital, an engineering firm, a research lab, or a film company. There are just so many different ways to use your skills and experience to make the world a better place. It can be overwhelming.
Christian versus Secular versus Interfaith
Do you want your faith or world view to play a direct role in your work?
US versus Abroad
I’m writing from the US, so that is my home base, so substitute your home country for the U.S. Basically, do you want to work around the world or closer to home?
Government versus Private
Does USAID or Blood:Water more closely align with your aspirations? Does it matter to you?
No, this list is not exhaustive; there are more considerations. 🙂 So yes, it can be overwhelming. But it’s a grand quest. Talking with friends and family, experimenting locally through volunteerism, taking time away for prayer, and the passing of time are all things that help the search. May we all engage the on-going process of connecting our skills with the world’s need. Probably the best sermon I’ve heard on the topic is by Shane Claiborne–Finding Your Calcutta. Kingdom Calling (Sherman) might be easier for most people to get their hands on.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, (Good Reads)