Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, offers advice on finding your dream job. Tell us about yours, and we'll help make it happen.
Our friends at the nonprofit Echoing Green have been a behind-the-scenes force for social change for more than twenty years now. Recipients of their social entrepreneurship fellowships have gone on to become leaders and founders of groups we cover on GOOD regularly, including Teach For America, City Year, SKS Microfinance, and many more. Most of the fellows are younger than 35, finding their way, so Echoing Green has become an expert in the power and potential of youth. More than ever, this rising generation wants to work for meaning, not just money. That's a cultural change with powerful implications, if—and that's the hard part—we can, as a generation, fuse moral values and professional skills on a massive scale.
"The perfect job is one you would do without pay."\n
While I didn’t know exactly how I would help my community, I was driven by a sense of service and a desire to give back. I recognized that I needed to get a good education and to really learn a set of skills so that "giving back" wasn’t just a theoretical set of beliefs but a very practical strategy.
After college and graduate school, like many young people, I took whatever jobs I could find that were in my fields of expertise. Because I had chosen something I love—helping and serving—each of the jobs I found was terrific. I loved being a teacher. I loved being a principal. I loved being a program director. And I love being the CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone.
My friends and family members work in all kinds of professions. Some of them love their careers, and others don’t. To some of them, a job is something they have to go to. They’re thrilled when it’s Friday and unhappy when Monday comes around.
They go about their work with determination and professionalism but not with the sense of joy that I have felt each day that I have worked in my chosen profession.
In the twenty-eight years I have worked at Harlem Children’s Zone, I have been excited and thrilled by my job every single day. It certainly can be tiring, and at times I am glad when Friday arrives, but I am always eager to rejoin the mission on Monday. As I have often explained to my students, the perfect job is one you would do without pay.
The work I do at Harlem Children’s Zone is something I would do for free. I think it’s wonderful that I get paid to do it. I never imagined that one could have a career—and a successful career—helping one’s community.
There are some people who don’t feel the urgent need to give back, and that is fine. There are plenty of careers they can gravitate toward and do well in. But people who do feel this urge to give back should take a very hard and serious look at opportunities in the social sector. It can offer you a lifetime of service and giving, combined with adventure and the opportunity to work with some brilliant, good-hearted colleagues, and all that provides you with an opportunity to live a truly fulfilling life.
Design your dream job. We'll help you make it happen.
What do you love doing so much that you'd do it for free? That should be your job. Tell us in 150 words or fewer what the work is, why you love it so much, and how it helps you or the world or both.
Submissions should be 150 words or fewer. Please submit your entry here. We’ll take submissions now through May 5.
We'll publish a selection of the most interesting, creative, and passionate responses. The number 1 winner will get a career coaching session with Echoing Green's Lara Galinsky.
Five runners-up will get an e-book version of Work on Purpose.