With Week 8 having come and gone I’m left wondering where the heck my summer went! I began the summer looking forward to 10 weeks of great non-profit experience and exposure to important people in the Columbus non-profit sector. I am now finishing my summer trying to wrap my head around what this summer has meant for me and preparing for what comes next.
As I began to outline my final presentation about my summer experience I started making a list of everything I have learned. What seemed like a simple task, turned into an endless list that touched so many different experiences. As a recent college graduate who lacked a firm sense of direction upon graduation, my summer was supposed to provide me with further insight on where I want end up. While I have learned a lot about myself and the different paths available to me, I find myself with too many options in front of me even less sure of which path to choose. One of the most useful and reassuring things I have heard this summer is that there really is no such thing as a “non-profit career path.” During one of the earlier learning sessions we heard from young professionals with hugely varying backgrounds. Each of these young professionals and almost every non-profit employee I have met through my work at Homeport tells a different story of how he/she ended up in his/her position. I don’t know what my path will be, but really who does until it’s already happened?
Another valuable theme of my summer has been learning that non-profits are not called non-profits because they are profit-averse, or somehow anti-business; non-profits are only named so because their primary mission is not profit. Any organization needs profit and any successful organization must run like a business. Homeport is the largest non-profit I have worked for with over 60 full-time staff members. Homeport is what Mike Schmidt of Cramer & Associates, who we heard from during this week’s learning session, refers to as a more mature non-profit organization. It has different departments and specific policies and procedures that help it run efficiently. My work on Business Process Management is the first step in the organizations push toward documenting and streamlining its processes. It’s exciting to be part of this first step at Homeport and to know my work will have an impact.
The skills I have learned this summer are ones I can take with me to any job. I have learned how to organize and plan events, how to interact with volunteers and clients, and how to communicate processes in a way that anyone can understand. I have been involved in both high level process writing and daily essential organizational tasks that are necessary in any organization. I have learned that not all non-profit work is the glamorous, constant client interaction we often imagine. There are so many behind the scenes tasks that are essential to the success and fulfillment of the organization’s mission. I have learned so much this summer about so many different aspects of the non-profit sector, and about being a young professional. I’m not sure this has quite been the goal-clarifying experience imagined, but I at least know where I am headed next.
In three weeks I will be moving to Mexico to spend a year working for a non-profit organization called La Jugarreta. The organization fights for the right of every child to have a safe space to play where they do not have to worry about taking care of their family or selling things on the street. I just found out my position this past week and the city in which I will be spending a year; I will be in the beautiful town of Tepoztlán in the state of Morelos just south of Mexico City. I can’t wait to carry the things I have learned from my summer with Homeport into my next journey in Mexico. Even though I don’t know my final destination, I am continuing to build my own path and discovering my journey.