The average person spends a lot of time at work. But it’s hard to stay happy and productive if your job isn’t a good fit.
Finding a good fit starts with knowing your work values. For some people, the most important thing is earning a high salary or having a flexible schedule. Some people value a healthy work–life balance. Some people value helping others and making a difference. It’s important to know what meaningful work means to you. It’s not the same for everyone.
Know your work values
Work that aligns with your values will be meaningful and satisfying. When you find meaning in your work, you’ll be more likely to do a great job. You’ll be more likely to get raises and promotions and to succeed in your career. It’s important to find a job and a workplace culture that reflect your work values. This might be at a not-for-profit or charitable organization. Or it might be for a socially and environmentally responsible business like a B Corp.
Work for a not-for-profit organization
What is a not-for profit?
The purpose of most companies is to grow and make a profit.
The purpose of a not-for-profit company is to build community, provide a benefit for the public, and make a difference in people’s lives. Any profits these companies make are recycled back into the organization to provide programs, services, and resources that help people.
Not-for-profit organizations support a variety of social, cultural, and environmental causes. These include the arts, the environment, housing, social services, disaster relief, newcomer settlement, research, education, animal welfare, health care, legal aid, and other causes.
Not-for-profit organizations get their funding from grants, corporate contributions, and donations from the community. They are generally exempt from paying taxes. Structurally, they range from small, volunteer-based groups to formal, well-funded agencies with paid staff.
There are approximately 286,000 Albertans employed in Alberta’s non-profit sector. The sector contributes almost $5.5 billion in GDP (gross domestic product) to the Alberta economy.
Pros and cons of a career in the not-for-profit sector
Not-for-profit organizations do important work for important causes, but money and resources are often stretched thin. To keep operating costs low, staff are often asked to take on additional responsibilities.
Staff at not-for-profits work hard because they believe in what they do. And they often must fill a number of different roles. That can be stressful and challenging, but it can also be rewarding.
Not-for-profit jobs often offer new opportunities and learning experiences. They offer the chance to be creative and to work with amazing people doing amazing things.
When 9 to 5 Is Not Enough: Build a Career You Love
People who work for not-for-profit organizations:
- Do challenging, interesting, meaningful work that helps make the world a better place
- Support causes they care about
- Feel fulfilled in their job
- Connect with their community
- Get to know the people they’re helping
- Form great working relationships with positive, upbeat, like-minded colleagues who work together to get things done
- Enjoy opportunities to learn, train, and take on new responsibilities that advance their careers and build skills for future jobs
The same features that make not-for-profit jobs rewarding can also be a source of strain:
- Not-for-profit organizations can be under-resourced. While this might allow you to use all your skills—and learn new ones—it can also mean long hours and tough days.
- Unreliable or unsustainable funding can put your job at risk. Not-for-profit funding comes from donations and grants, which vary from year to year. If funding becomes unavailable, staff can’t be paid.
- Helping people is rewarding, but when the stakes are high, it can also be stressful. For example, if your job is to find housing for a new immigrant family, failure means that people are hurting.
- Average salaries in the not-for-profit sector can be lower than in other industries. The 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey [pdf] reported an average provincial hourly wage of $29.70. The average hourly wage in the not-for-profit sector [pdf] was $25.42.
Getting hired at a not-for-profit
Most not-for-profit jobs come with lengthy job descriptions that require a variety of skills. To succeed in the not-for-profit environment, you’ll need to be:
- Multi-skilled and resourceful
- Able to learn new skills quickly
You’ll also need to:
- Know how to multitask
- Enjoy a fast-paced environment
- Have a passion for the cause
- Want to help and make a difference
Volunteering can help you find a job
Volunteering is important for its own sake. But it can also help you land a paid position.
Volunteering gives you experience, builds your confidence, and helps you develop new skills. It shows employers that you’re a hard worker and that you’re committed to making a difference.
If you’re a volunteer, be sure to show initiative. Get involved in the organization. Ask for more work, and lend a helping hand whenever you can. Showing commitment might get you a paid position with the organization you’re volunteering with. If nothing else, it will get you a glowing reference that will help you land a job. Keep in mind that focusing your volunteer efforts on one organization or activity can help to show your commitment.
Work for a socially responsible company or a B Corp
Not-for-profits aren’t the only organizations that make a difference and give back to their communities. There are lots of companies whose mission is to help people. You can find them in virtually every sector, from health care, education, and social work to law enforcement, green energy, and the hospitality industry.
What is a B Corp company?
B Corporations are certified by the global not-for-profit organization B Lab, which was founded in 2006.
B Corporations share a lot in common with not-for-profit companies. These companies have made an official commitment to use business as a force for good. For B Corp companies, taking care of people and the planet is just as important as making a profit. Like not-for-profits, they provide a public benefit.
B Corporations don’t just say they’re good businesses. They pay annual fees and go through a rigorous certification process. This evaluates their sustainability, governance, customer- and staff-related business practices, and social and environmental performance.
B Corps are committed to supporting a healthy environment, healthy communities, and happy employees. They hire people who share these values and who want to work for companies they can feel good about.
In 2022, B Corp certification was held by 5,728 companies, including 567 in Canada. Certified B Corporations employed 461,715 workers in 158 industries and 85 countries.
Find jobs where you’ll make a difference
If you’re looking for work in the not-for-profit sector, or volunteer opportunities, check out these job boards:
- Bmeaningful shares postings for “impact jobs” at not-for-profits, foundations, B Corps and in government.
- B Work connects jobseekers with positions at social enterprises who are using business as a force for good.
- Canadian Association of Gift Planners Job Board (CAGP) lists job postings in the gift planning and related fields in its career centre, which are available for members and non-members to view.
- Charity Careers Canada is a charitable recruitment organization that also has a job board.
- Charity Village features job postings, volunteer opportunities, an eLearning platform, and a not-for-profit newsfeed.
- Charity World Works is a job board containing postings from not-for-profits and charities across Canada. Charity World Works also provides a recruiter directory and industry news.
- Connect Nonprofit Jobs is run by the Ontario Nonprofit Network. Jobs can be sorted by region or sector category. There is also a keyword search option.
- Devex features jobs in international development in countries around the world. It also hosts career webinars and offers a CV writing service.
- ECVO Jobline features not-for-profit opportunities and organizations in Edmonton.
- Idealist is all about connecting idealists—people who want to do good—with opportunities for action and collaboration. It contains Canadian job listings and international postings.
- Reach Hire is “Alberta’s not-for-profit career centre.” Jobseekers and employers can create an account to connect with each other. Jobseekers can search for opportunities by sector.
- Volunteer Connector features open volunteer positions across Canada.
- WorkInNonProfits.ca is committed to helping build and strengthen Canada's not-for-profit sector by connecting not-for-profits across the country with job seekers and volunteers.