Job description versus expectations
When I joined the NGO world, I had no idea what was waiting for me. I thought the job comprised the descriptions indicated in the job advert. It didn’t take me long to realize that the NGO world is different from the typical working environment. The responsibilities expected of me stretched long beyond what I had signed up for. Don’t get me wrong though— I am not complaining. I’m simply saying that I wish I had beforehand knowledge about what to expect. It could have psychologically prepared me to handle the pressure and challenges. In this article, I will share with you how I have managed to cope with various stereotypes you may have about the NGO world.
Being bold about what you want
One of the stereotypes I have learned to cope with is that NGOs offer low wages. It is true that NGOs constantly need funding and many are under-resourced. However, that does not mean that one cannot negotiate their salary. Over time, I have come to realize that many NGOs still value their employees as their greatest asset. They are willing to negotiate salaries while at the same time ensuring that there is enough allocated towards the core objective of the organization.
Different capacities allow for continuing with your passion
I have learned that contrary to what many believe, I do not have to be on the front line for me to be of value in an NGO. It is easy to believe that the best role to play in an NGO is to solicit for donations or to be in the field helping the needy. Whereas these are vital points in realizing the mission of an NGO, it is key to understand that an NGO has a great need for the human resource. Yes, it needs people on the ground, but so does it IT personnel and human resource managers. You can even specialize in non profit accounting. You do not have to put your passion on the line for you to play a role in the NGO world.
Getting more education
When I got into NGOs, I didn’t think that further education would be of the essence. Conversely, increasing my knowledge base in this domain has helped me tremendously. By attending various workshops, conferences and some certified trainings, I have developed an in-depth understanding of my work. The stereotype that one does not need lots of training to work in the NGO sector has been replaced with knowledge of how constantly increasing my knowledge can make me a better worker. Expanding my knowledge level has helped me to understand the organizational structures, limits and operations.
Understanding gender roles
My time in NGOs has helped me understand gender roles in NGOs. It is easy to assume that the goal of NGOs is so noble that gender roles or issues do not come up. Due to socialization, women tend to be given and to lean towards social service and welfare, administrative and secretarial roles. Men tend to be found in strategic leadership positions and NGOs related to trade unions, youth and sports organizations and similar domains. Most societies perceive women to be more sensitive, nurturing, and caring than men. As a man who identifies himself as being sensitive and caring, this was a struggle for me. Men are assumed to be more focused, effective and practical. Thus the majority of men in non profits push for leadership positions and are easily accorded the roles. A 2011 study indicates that even in developed countries men tend to value jobs with leadership positions (at 34% as compared to women) and women desired jobs with more responsibility (at 25% as compared to men at 17%). This is evident in NGOs as well and can be very frustrating for a man who does not want a leadership position. These stereotypes that I hoped would not be present in this world made it harder for me to push for and do some of the things above, like being bold about what I wanted while continuing in my passion and being respected for it.
Through further education and constant learning, I now understand the effect of social norms and expectations and how they affect the NGO human resource. Thus, as far as overcoming stereotypes is concerned, education is the best tool. Only knowledge can help one understand the challenges, opportunities and the scope of operation of NGOs. Before you decide to enter the NGO world ensure that you have done enough digging and have visited sites like Glassdoor to check the employee reviews of the NGO. Read through various reports to know how an organization manages its employees and funds. Make sure they respect all their employees equally and are willing to work with you to get what you want. That way, you can make well-informed decisions.