How to make a difference without making a fortune
Ciara Hughes spent 10 years in the multinational technology sector, primarily in roles such as employee engagement, corporate social responsibility and events management. But during the pandemic, the 45-year-old realized she wanted to make a more positive contribution to society with her career and switched to the non-profit sector in March last year, taking a position as Corporate Partnerships Officer at the Irish Cancer Society.
The pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, taking us out of our comfort zones and everyday routines,” she says. “I took the opportunity to step back and reconsider what a successful career looked like. I did a course in quantitative psychology and took the Science of Wellbeing online course at Yale.
“A lot of research shows that having a purpose, making a difference, and working in the service of others can have a direct impact on how happy you are.”
When a position opened up at the Irish Cancer Society to help businesses support the charity, for example through fundraising, it “seemed a perfect fit,” says Ms Hughes.
She was even willing to take a pay cut since she’d made enough in tech to raise her kid and buy a house.
“Everyone at the Irish Cancer Society is united by a strong mission to improve the lives of people living with cancer – we are all here for the same reason,” she says. “When you log off from work every day, the knowledge that you’ve made even a small contribution to making the world a better place is hugely motivating and gives a great sense of job satisfaction.”
Ms Hughes was far from the only professional to have had an epiphany during the Covid-19 restrictions on what makes a great place to work: nonprofits feature heavily in the top echelons of most popular employers in this year’s survey, sitting next to tech -Giants that pay stratospheric salaries and give employees super-swanky offices and lavish perks. In fact, the Irish Cancer Society ranks sixth in this year’s list, up from 21st last year. The second most popular employer this year is the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), which ranks second only to Google and enjoys greater popularity than LinkedIn, eBay, Apple, Microsoft and Indeed.
Áine Myler, chief executive of Charities Institute Ireland (CII), the body representing Ireland’s best-known charities, which runs an online job board for the not-for-profit sector, says it’s possible more professionals are leaving corporate positions in sectors like technology because of the pandemic led them to judge whether their work makes the world a better place and because they strive for more autonomy than they could find in much larger organizations.
“I recently saw a survey by KPMG that showed almost 80 percent of people want a meaningful job,” says Ms. Myler. “Charities are good at connecting your role to positive outcomes, whereas in the corporate world the only outcome is usually profit.
“We have all had the opportunity to reflect in recent years, and younger people in particular have become more reflective as to whether their work makes sense. What’s really encouraging is that young people now have choices [due to greater job vacancies] and they use their choices well.
“It also has a lot to do with culture. A charity’s raison d’être is to be caring and compassionate, so they’re probably better at instilling that type of culture in their own teams.
“What also appeals to people is that charities tend to have a relatively flat management structure, and if you come from the technology sector – which means they have a flat management structure but are actually quite hierarchical – to a charity, you can go with that Management interact every day.”
Ms. Myler has been reflecting for herself during the pandemic. A Chartered Surveyor by trade, she assumed the position of CEO of CII in January after two years as a consultant to corporate, non-profit and government agencies. In a previous capacity she was Director General of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.
“You can reach a stage in your career where you need a different meaning, and that’s something I realized during Covid,” says Ms Myler, who also sits on the board of some charities. “It’s not that I didn’t believe in my work for clients, but I wanted to do more on the coal front to help others. Money is not everything and there are other rewards.”
Mary Jo Leatham, 52, was also willing to trade a larger salary package for a more fulfilling role during the pandemic. She was senior project manager for betting company Paddy Power Betfair and later worked as an independent management consultant for seven years, introducing new technology and business change initiatives for clients such as the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). In January 2021 she became Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at IWA.
“The pandemic gave me a lot of time to think and do something meaningful, although I wasn’t sure how different I make in the different organizations I’ve worked with compared to this one,” says Ms Leatham, who has experience of disabilities in her family.
“I know I can make a significant positive impact on how IWA delivers services. I can do that or have a bigger paycheck and deliver technology projects that are just investments.
“We will automate tasks that are currently done manually so people can get information instantly instead of having to search for it. Or they can give a service user an extra half hour instead of spending it on paperwork.”
Ms Leatham knew she was in a caring workplace after suffering double tragedy last year: her mother died of Covid a week before she was due to take up the role at the IWA and her father died of cancer nine months later .
“The IWA was very considerate and held a wonderful celebration in October for all the people IWA lost,” she says. “They didn’t have a lot of money, but they made a real impact on these people’s lives. They read poetry to mark the loss of service users, and the resource centers dialed in and had their own little online gathering.”
While charities transitioned to virtual fundraising during the pandemic restrictions, the loss of many in-person events dealt a blow to those organizations’ funds during the health emergency. Despite offering rewarding careers, charities that have already offered salaries that have paled in comparison to corporate roles are now struggling to financially reward employees in a nationwide war over talent and salary expectations that have been boosted by inflation Mrs Myler and Mrs Leatham.
“We’re constantly hiring new ICT staff for our service desk and cyber security, and you have to compete with big organizations that can offer higher wages,” says Ms Leatham.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irelands-best-employers/how-to-make-a-difference-without-making-a-fortune-41670506.html How to make a difference without making a fortune