Friday, March 30, 2018

On Working For Not-For-Profit Organization

When I decided to leave journalism (and permanent employment) and switch to not-for-profit organization (and annually-renewed work contract), my parents were not happy with the decision. They worked at their offices for decades (M for 27 years and D for around 25 years) before they retired. Both had toyed with the idea of changing workplaces, but in the end they stayed faithfully.

D told me that he had been accepted at several other offices, but decided to stay at the office because the would-be-office was too far away. He was not happy with the office, though, and he struggled with episodes of asthma throughout his tenure. When he retired, his asthma was gone, never to return. 

Unlike M&D, I never try to settle in one workplace. If I no longer felt comfortable working in that office, I would search another job. I'm not going to say this is a perfect arrangement for everybody, but so far it's working for me. Also, please note that I'm writing this post after working in this not-for-profit sector for about 4.5 years (Wow!). Perhaps I haven't covered all sides, so there is a possibility of post updates in the future.

Work Experiences Matter More Than Degree/Almamater

I studied Engineering, had work experiences as a journalist and then decided to work as a communications person. If I apply for a job in the ministries or the profit sector, it would have been a problem. But in the non-profit organizations, work experiences speak louder than the degree. For some technical positions, such as specialist, having the right degree would help. But I have also met specialists who had degrees that did not correlate with their roles.

I do want to have a degree in communications, especially in development/environment/community engagement. I still struggle to get the scholarship because it's the kind of degree one will only find abroad.

An Excuse To Have A Career Break (For Me)

One project usually lasts for five years, so after five years we have to find another ship to sail on. Some people would cringe at the thought of being jobless after five years of work, but I embrace the idea of a career break. It keeps me charged, excited and on my toes.

Actually, I haven't been able to take a real career break. I have been working on freelance works and other projects since the last project concluded in March. I had only 10 days between end of June and July 10, 2017 before starting at current workplace. The previous career break was three months, between January and March 2015, but I took freelance works during that time.

Mutual Relationship

The HR is usually the most powerful department in a profit-oriented organization when it comes to employment. But here in not-for-profit, it's more about mutual agreement. There is still more power in HR, but we can also file a report if there is a breach of ethics.

Having been working since 2004, I usually work in one office for 1-2 years before I moved on. The longest tenure (6.5 years) was with an office that bound me in a three-year contract. The contract said I had to take a one-year training-probation, and if I passed the probation I had to stay for another two years, or pay a fine of Rp 60 million. It was not a fair work contract, but I really wanted to work for that office at that moment.

Now that I've worked for not-for-profit organizations/projects, I would usually receive one-year work contract, which is renewed annually based on mutual agreement. So if I decide to leave after one year (or before the contract ends), then just do it according to the terms and conditions agreed in the beginning (usually one month notice). No penalty ever.

More Holidays

Another wonderful thing about working with such organizations, beside following Indonesian national holidays, they also apply the national holiday of the country of origin. For example, if it's an American organization, then a day off on July 4 is a normalcy. The number of days of leave is also generous. In my previous workplace I got 24 days of leave in one year, exclude the national holidays. In another workplace, I got 20 days, but I could carry over five days of leave for the next year. In my current workplace, I get only 12 days, though, but it will end in March 2018, so I guess it's okay.

Also, if there is any demonstration or threats to our safety (such as natural disaster/flood/demonstration), the office will usually declare a work-from-home policy.

More Time For Personal Activities/Hobbies

Weekends and national holidays mean I'm free to whatever at home. But I also get to do some 'extracurricular' activity with colleagues after the office hour, such as running in Gelora Bung Karno Sport Complex, attending events at cultural center, sampling delicious foods at local restaurants.

Less Office Politics

With only five years to work together, we will spend the first year to discuss programs and conduct baseline monitoring&evaluation, second year to start programs, third year to hold midline monitoring&evaluation and see if we need new programs, fourth year to do compile data for the final year, and the fifth year to either write report and start looking for a new job :D. 

The beauty of this five-year work plan is that it leaves no room for office politics! We would be too busy to make sure everything runs well that we no longer care if one colleague is annoying, as long as the job is done. It's more about hard work, competency and merit, instead of like-dislike. I didn't say there is no office politics in this sector, but at least it's kept at the minimum.

On Age Requirement

I started the career switch at the age of 33. In other sectors, I may not pass the paper selection. But in the development sector and non profit organizations, there is no age limit. You can start on any age, and stop anytime.

In Indonesia, the usual retirement age is 55 years old. But in this line of work, there is no exact retirement age, you can still work even though you are in your 60s or 70s. Both CEO and M&E manager in the project I've worked on were 70 years old. As long as you can do the job and are willing to do it, then there is no age limit. 

Casual Work Attire On Most Days

A friend, who was transitioning from journalism to this sector, specifically asked me what kind of work hour and work attire were expected in this sector. I just had to laugh. The work hour is fair, eight hours per day, or when the work is done you can go home. I can wear Crocs flats or boots with jeans and chambray shirt, as long as I don't have a meeting with government officials/the headquarters on that day.

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