Saving the World

I recently ran into a friend, a fellow Barnard Alumna, at the gym. During all that small talk, she mentioned how she left her high-level role in non-profit world to begin her own business. I asked her why she decided to leave her role (mind you, she finished her graduate degree in Public Administration), and she simply stated that she could no longer handle the politics of working in the non-profit world.

It’s funny how I was just thinking the same thing when I was reflecting on my current role. I am in my mid-twenties, working at a big university, managing my own department. I went into higher education with the belief that I wanted to make a difference. I thought the best way to make a difference was to educate students who are looking to make difference in their world.

My friend and I joked how Barnard taught us that saving the world was what Barnard women were meant to do. We spent our education devoted to service and empowering other women. Blinded by that vision, we went into roles without thinking about our own values and self-worth. Please note that I LOVE BARNARD with all my heart, and I would not be the confident woman I am without the education and sisterhood that this beautiful institution gave to me.

As someone on the latter half of their twenties, I am beginning to reevaluate whether the non-profit is where I want to be (call it a quarter life crisis). Lately, I’ve been wondering about the culture in universities especially. We are the institutions that educate the next Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

We educate the doctors and nurses who work endlessly to care for patients and the community. Some of the most innovative (a buzz worthy word) entrepreneurs in this world have received their education at my university, so you think that my university is extremely innovative and progressive right? Think again.

I want to save the world, but how can I when I feel like my creativity is being hindered? Working in the non-profit sector can drain you emotionally and financially. I often find myself thinking about venturing off to a career that is a bit more lucrative (aka the corporate world), but I constantly have this struggle of whether I will be fulfilled and happy. In my current role, I find myself wishing I had the freedom to be more innovative, but I am constantly blocked by politics and old conservative mentalities.

What kills me is the fact that these institutions and businesses are constantly recruiting young millennials to liven up their culture, but often aren’t equipped to develop these young employees. Instead, so many employers will work their young employees until they are drained and ready to leave their company without real skills or professional development that would make them competitive in the current workforce.

So, what do I do? 


Written by Tran Pham


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