This is post two of six in a series of six pieces about career and money from the point of view of a low-level nonprofit worker. For some reason I hear little about it in nonprofit land. The bottom line: if you don’t read The Simple Dollar, start now.
Financial Reality: Job-First Mentality
Having boatloads of money has never sounded as important to me as having a meaningful job. My goals are much more about having a more holistic quality of life that includes joy, flexibility, and time along with a reasonable amount of money.
It’s what I think of as a job-first mentality: first I’ll find a job I like, then I’ll make the rest work. I really enjoy working with people, usually in an educational setting. I’ve worked on basic literacy with preschoolers, families, and adult learners. I love giving presentations, teaching music lessons, and even babysitting. So these are all what I do. They aren’t surefire ways to be a millionaire by age thirty, but they make me happy and pay the rent too.
I seriously almost did a spit-take when I heard an actual salary quote for an entry-level programmer. It was more than my estimate of what nonprofit directors make. It hurt, even for someone who was never concerned with having boatloads of money before. Why are skills in my field valued so very much less than in programming? Did I make a mistake by taking this career path?
The sticker shock faded and my worldview normalized. I don’t think I made a mistake. I think that mistakes are made in undervaluing and underfunding nonprofits, but as far as my daily experience and impact are concerned, I’m exactly where I need to be.
That being said, who knows what the future might throw at me? What if some crisis happens where I suddenly need some significant financial resources? If I manage what money I have wisely, I’ll be far less likely to have to ask myself, “Do I need to switch to a salary-first mentality to get through this?”
Job-first doesn’t mean I don’t think about money. It’s actually quite the opposite.