Five years since I left the nonprofit world…

4 minute read

July 20, 2018, 2:34 PM

Yesterday marked five years since I left Food & Water Watch, where I worked for a little over six years.  I had not been happy there for a while, and the deterioration of things in my last three months or so was the final push that I needed in order to do what I knew that I needed to do, i.e. leave the organization.  Looking back, I suppose that what ultimately happened was the logical conclusion to my work there.  I was hired into a very generalist position back in 2007.  I was that guy who “did everything”.  One day I would be doing accounting work.  One day I was building furniture.  One day I was fixing computers.  One day I would be working in fundraising.  You name it, and I probably did it at some point.  Over the years, my job evolved and changed as the organization grew, and people with more specialized roles were added as various functions of the organization became too large for a more generalist position.  Eventually, there became less of a need for a position like mine, but so rather than promote me to a new role, they opted to unload me.  Suit yourself, I suppose.

In any case, the next fifteen months were an interesting time in my life.  I was reminded of exactly how much job hunting sucks, but I also remember not really feeling any of the positions that I was applying for.  More nonprofit work after just having been chewed up and spit out by one didn’t exactly ignite my passion.  Especially when there was that nagging thought that in a few years, I would probably be searching for a job again, since most people tended to only stay somewhere for two or three years before moving on.  By October, I had given up on nonprofits, and focused on transportation.  I got a CDL, and I was applying to driving jobs.  I was more excited about the work than sitting in an office all day, that’s for sure.  I knew I was in the right place, because I felt like the passion and the fire were back.

It’s funny, though, what makes you realize how much you’ve grown and changed in five years.  I redid my resume about a month ago for a few internal positions that I am pursuing with my current employer, and based the new resume on the one that I had used in 2013 and 2014.  That old resume was trying to be a lot of different things, and focused on how well-rounded I was as a candidate, focusing on technical abilities, writing, and work experience.  It was two pages (front and back), and probably had too much on it, as it had this big, flowery “skills” section, plus a section on volunteer work which covered all of my writing on Wikipedia, and also showcased the various skills developed through Schumin Web.  I thought it was great in 2013 and 2014, but in 2018, I saw a whole lot of fluff.  I condensed that puppy down to one page, as a lot of that was irrelevant to an internal move in a transit agency.  My Wikipedia writing experience went right out the window, as I hadn’t done that in quite a few years, and thus it was less relevant.  Schumin Web is now listed as a real job, as the business side of things (i.e. licensing photos for third party use) has actually become a real revenue stream in the last few years.  And then my Office on Youth internship, which I did in the summer of 2003, is gone.  It didn’t provide any new insights that other positions didn’t already provide, and was for such a short duration that it could disappear and no one would miss it.  Kind of weird to think about, though, since that internship defined my summer that year.  But then again, things change.  No one from when I interned there still works there.  I don’t recognize a single face on their staff bio page.

It’s also interesting to see how interactions with former Food & Water Watch coworkers have gone since I’ve left there.  When I was driving the bus, I picked up a few of them at various times on various routes.  Funny how the person who always acted the happiest to see me on the bus was the one who treated me the worst in the office.  Most other interactions were neutral, but this person’s reaction to seeing me was too over the top, complete with a fake smile.  I just thought, yeah, I know what you’re really about, as they sat down in their seat.  Then there was another time that I was walking through Petworth, heading back to the bus division after doing the first part of my run.  I ran into three of them on the street.  They were all happy to see me, and they invited me out to whatever bar they were headed to.  I found that lack of situational awareness to be a little off-putting.  I was wearing a bus operator’s uniform at the time, with a safety vest over top of it.  I had buses to drive.  I had more important things to do than hang out with them, and I certainly couldn’t enter a bar while wearing a bus operator’s uniform, on or off duty.  That interaction really made me realize that I had grown tremendously, both as a person and a professional in the two years (at that time) since leaving Food & Water Watch, and they had not changed at all.  I kind of felt badly for them, because they were still the same people that I got away from in 2013, and I was no longer the same person that I was in 2013.  Our shared histories had diverged, and I realized how much I had outgrown that sort of thing.

Another interesting byproduct of things: I used to think that my colleagues who posted only about work on social media seemed a bit one-dimensional, i.e. they were so wrapped up in their work that their only interests were related to their work.  Then I started working for a transit agency.  I realized that I was posting a lot about work, and issues pertaining to work.  Quite a few buses showed up in my Flickr feed, for one.  The “aha” moment was when I realized that they’re just really passionate about the issues that they work on.  But I still included posts on other interests besides transit, unlike some of them.

All in all, I’m glad that I left Food & Water Watch.  I certainly grew a lot there and gained a lot of useful experience, but I eventually outgrew the position and the organization, and moved on to better things.  And I’m happier and a better person for it, and that’s all that counts in the end.

Categories: Myself, Work