Why You Should Stop Pinning Your Career and Vocation Against One Another

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has asked me, “Are you planning to work in the nonprofit or for-profit sector after graduation?” In a sense, I always feel cornered because my answer could be perceived multiple ways depending on the asker’s intent. Here’s how I always imagine it going:

Scenario One
Are you planning to work in the nonprofit or for-profit sector after graduation?”
Me: For-profit.
What about helping the less fortunate?”

Scenario Two
Are you planning to work in the nonprofit or for-profit sector after graduation?”
Me: Nonprofit.
“So you’re OK with living in a 5×5 cubicle the rest of your life?”

Scenario Three
Are you planning to work in the nonprofit or for-profit sector after graduation?”
Me: For-profit
Awesome, I’ll come live with you when I retire.”

(Honesty Hour: Scenario Three is a conversation I commonly have with my dad.)

Regardless of my answer to the question, I wrestle internally with wanting to do a little good in the world through my career without sacrificing too much comfort. This is something I’d be willing to bet a lot of us soon-to-be college graduates are wrestling with.

All too often, vocational and career goals stay separate from one another.

  • Vocational goals: activities that bring you joy but not necessarily a paycheck
  • Career goals: how you will earn a paycheck but not necessarily happiness.

I’ve completed client projects for companies in both sectors as a writing intern in Bravo Group’s Harrisburg office. Through my projects, I’ve gained a larger understanding of how I want to tie vocational goals to career goals.

One client in particular stands out to me — Mercy Ships. Mercy Ships is an international nonprofit organization that “follows the 2,000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor,” by delivering care using its state-of-the-art hospital ship.

Working alongside a nonprofit such as Mercy Ships within the context of a public relations and advocacy firm, I’ve seen the fruits of both types of labor. I often work on enriching projects that make me feel good because I know it’s creating a larger impact.

Sometimes I think my immediate skill set and drive to work in a corporate setting as a writer might not deem me a “world-changer,” but I’ve come to think differently after working on Mercy Ships projects. While I can’t tangibly see it, I know the writing I’m doing for Mercy Ships is impacting the organization and the people it serves in a positive way.

I’ve realized I’m not alone in this thinking, either. Here’s what other members of our Mercy Ships team had to say about working alongside this nonprofit organization:

“It’s always rewarding to feel like your time and creativity are going toward something that is making a positive difference and potentially impacting lives in some way. Mercy Ships’ projects are ‘feel good’ for me because they allow me to read and share incredible stories of transformation and service. It’s impossible not to be a little inspired and thankful after seeing photos of healed patients or reading about volunteer experiences.” — Rose Talbot, writer

“It has been a true privilege to work for Mercy Ships. Watching the Bravo team unite to help them move their mission forward has been a great experience, and it is very rewarding to know that our efforts make such a distinct difference impacting the lives of people in great need.” — Kelley Denny, managing director

“The best part about working on Mercy Ships projects is being able to read the stories from the people they’ve helped. Reading stories of people who have lived with untreated and (sometimes) painful medical conditions for years really puts things in perspective for me. Instead of complaining about having to make a doctor’s appointment, I’m more appreciative of the fact that I have that option to do so. It also makes me realize the things I perceive as ‘problems’ in my life, such as not finding my charger or missing the latest episode of my favorite television show, are really not that important in the long run.” — Alizah Thornton, writer

I’ll leave you with a question: How might you creatively tie your career goals to your vocational goals?

Bree Whitelock | Harrisburg Writing Intern
Image: Shutterstock


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