Where are the Do-Gooders?

If you are seeking to do good, you may eventually get paid for it - but first, prepare to battle it out with like-minded job seekers.

Forbes is reporting that competition is fierce across public service jobs - from well-paying posts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to modest ones at the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.

Volunteering may be a good first step to a more permanent position, even if compensation is low (or nonexistent). Forbes said many private and nonprofit organizations look favorably on such experience.

"If you can develop leadership skills and provide concrete evidence of your accomplishments at a job somewhere like Teach for America, the Peace Corps or any private or nonprofit organization that does good, an employer is going to want you," Joseph Du Pont, of the career center at Brandeis University, told Forbes.

Patty Stonesifer, senior adviser to the trustees of the Gates Foundation, said monitoring news about the philanthropic activities will clue you in on employment opportunities in the sector.

"Even today's nonprofit sector, with its belt tightening and consolidation, has significant activity that results in new job openings for the right candidates," she and daughter Sandy wrote in April for the Slate column My Goodness.

Where to look? Stonesifer suggested tracking foundation grants or activities of governmental energy, education and aid agencies.

"If you see a new leader announced for a nonprofit you love, a merger announced between two nonprofits, a new strategy declared by a leader in your field, or any other news that might indicate a change in ‘business as usual,' then get going!" she said. "They may need new qualified folks to get the job done."

Doing good received a tremendous boost in the U.S. that same month, when President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands service opportunities in the U.S. to 250,000 and creates four new service corps for low-income communities.

"Even as so many want to serve, even as so many are struggling, our economic crisis has forced our charities and non-for-profits to cut back," Obama remarked at the time.

Economic stimulus legislation in the U.S. and elsewhere is creating opportunities for service to people from all walks of life and supporting innovation in the nonprofit sector.

And opportunities abound beyond public-sector positions. Even big corporate names are seeking to do good. It is a good idea for job seekers to hone in on this growing trend.

But don't be disheartened easily. If philanthropic work is your passion, just remain patient with trying.

"Follow your heart but also follow the money, because it takes new resources to create new jobs," Stonesifer stressed. "If you don't get your dream job right away, take the job that is the closest fit and build the right education, volunteer experience, and personal network that will recommend you when ‘your' job opens up later."

Got any tips on how to win a plum volunteering or public service assignment? Please add a comment below!

About the author

  • Josefa Cagoco

    Sef Cagoco served as one of Devex's international development correspondent from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Her writing focused on social entrepreneurship and multilateral agencies such as the U.N. and Asian Development Bank. She previously worked as senior reporter for the national daily BusinessWorld and a production journalist for the Financial Times.