Written by Banu Raghuraman
The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Endeavour.
Erica Opoku is an Engagement Manager for Round 11 at Endeavour, and is spending six months leading her consulting team as they provided their client, Epilepsy Ontario, with recommendations on Organizational Design. Erica’s day job working as a Project Coordinator for the Region of Peel allows her to bring a social service perspective to the task at hand. Read about her reasons for jumping into the non-profit sector as a career choice after graduating, and how she deals with the myths surrounding non-profits.
Erica, what is your day job? Could you share some of your duties?
I work as a Coordinator for Project Lifesaver, a Region of Peel initiative that provides peace of mind for families who have family members with cognitive impairment issues.
Many people who have a cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Autism, Down syndrome, etc) but are still physically fit would like to live an independent life. However, their families become concerned when relatives go about their daily lives, exposed to potentially unsafe conditions. For such individuals, Project Lifesaver, in collaboration with the local police force, locates individuals should they wander away from their homes. The program participant wears an ID bracelet that emits a signal; the police have locating devices that pick up this signal. This assists the family and police in identifying where clients have wandered off to, and keeps them safe. The service is currently used byclients of all ages. Many families become aware of the program through the Peel Regional Police or Caledon OPP.
My job involves meeting with families and individuals to introduce them to the Project Lifesaver program. I also meet with clients for monthly maintenance and address any issues and concerns they may have.
As a recent graduate, what made you choose a career in the non-profit sector?
I graduated in 2004 and for me, I had to know that my work makes a difference and has a positive impact on other people’s lives. Personally, I don’t find that the private sector would provide me with the same impact.
Were there any myths that you had heard of before coming to the non-profit sector? If yes,what are they and how did you dispel them?
Generally, I thought of it as very different from the private sector – that it is very harmonious and that everyone within the non-profit sector thinks and sees things the same way. That they tend to have a common way of doing everything. And finally, that they are very casual and non-business like.
I dealt with the myths with a positive spin. It is a good thing that all of us do not think the same way. The diversity provides variety and creativity that makes challenges interesting. Different ideas make things work better. And regardless of which sector one is in, the level of professionalism should be there, as you are still delivering a “service” for the “business”. In my case, the “service” is very personalized and close to the heart of many families I work with. My professionalism creates rapport and trust which is needed for the work I do.
If you are given the task of convincing someone from the for-profit sector to join the non-profit sector, what would your top five arguments be?
1. You learn more transferable skills. There are limited resources and since the non-profit sector doesn’t generate revenue for this purpose, we have to learn skills from different areas – marketing, advertising, report writing, etc.
2. You can earn a decent income. The non-profit sector is large and incorporates a variety of roles and responsibilities. You can definitely find a position to your liking.
3. You will work with passionate colleagues.You are more likely to work with people who are passionate about their career, which makes your work a little easier and more meaningful.
4. It is very diverse. People assume that there are limited career options, which are commonly heard of, like social worker, but there are many more careers than that. There are a lot to choose from.
5. You will be on the same page as everybody.Everyone’s vision is the same, your co-workers will all be working towards a common goal or working to further a particular cause even though the process may differ.
Interested in learning more about the passionate people at Endeavour?
Check out http://www.endeavourvolunteer.ca/about-us/ to read profiles of our Board of Directors, Executive Team and Advisory Committee.