Saturday, May 18, 2013

Not for Profit, For Profit, Government and Entrepreneur

In my quest to pay the bills, I've been employed in positions with Not for Profit, For Profit, and Government.  I've also dipped my toes in Entrepreneur type ventures.  In reflection of these experiences, each had some aspects worth consideration for those beginning careers or considering career changes.  Please note that I am well aware that there are exceptions to some of the generalities that I express and certainly others will experience variations in their unique situation.

One commonality that I have found consistent across all environments is the human factor.  Simply stated, you will find co-workers and customers that you like and some that you can't stand (no, I'm not Roy Rogers).  Also, you will find nepotism in varying degrees everywhere you go.  (When I refer to "nepotism," I include both friends and relatives).  Relationships are likely the biggest understated ingredient of successful career building.  With that being said, I am going to turn the focus of this post toward differentiating these career paths.  In doing this, I am going to rank each  on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) on three axis:  1.  Job security, 2. Income potential and 3. Creativity and self expression.

My not for profit experience was my first "real" job following a stint in the Army and completing a college degree.  In sum total, I have worked substantial spans with 3 different not for profit organizations.  My experiences have been in local, small, community based not for profits which I believe to be the "norm" for not for profits (as opposed to someone who may land a position in the corporate office of Red Cross).  As the name, "not for profit" implies, the focus of these organizations is not toward making money and the salary for these positions certainly reflects this concept.  Most will not grow wealthy from the salary from a not for profit position. On the flip side, because of the low pay and also mission to serve rather than profit (or grow), your risk of loosing your job is on the low end of the spectrum.  Due in part to it's size, you likely will get to know your co-workers - this cuts both ways.  It's great to have close friends; it is also difficult to work extremely closely to someone you despise.  Also, due to it's size, you likely will be able to have a great impact on the organization.  Even the positions that appear mundane may have opportunities to make a difference.  If you believe that it is better to do something to do this way versus that way, chances are you will have greater latitude to try your idea in these organizations.

G's "Not for Profit" rankings:
  • Job Security:  4
  • Income potential:  1
  • Creativity and self expression:  4

Midway through my bill paying path (career path sounds so prescribed), I entered employment in a large corporate, for profit environment.  As corporations go, when times were good, they were real good; but when they turned sour, the ripples were severe.  I remember a Christmas party during the good times with jumbo shrimp and the CEO drawing for hundred dollar bills.  (In contrast to the Spartan like events of the not for profit or the non-existent pizza parties in government).  During my stint of over 5 years, this corporation was reorganized, purchased or merged (whatever the unpleasant correct term may be) 3 times.  As one may guess, corporate America is not where you want to be if you seek high job security.  The days of working 30 years for the same corporation and retiring with the gold watch are long gone.  No surprise, but the "for profit" environment raises the income earning potential; however, this is offset somewhat by fierce competition and economic conditions.  Generally, you will find greater salary variance of employees in the for profit corporate environment; many will likely be working for "base" salaries, while some will make a very good salary.  The size of the corporation can potentially stifle creativity.  I did not find this to be absolute but rather I found that both salary and creativity potential were closely tied to the perceived value and impact on profitability and corporate goals.

G's "For Profit" rankings:
  • Job Security:  1
  • Income potential:  4
  • Creativity and self expression:  3

Lastly, I have served a considerable span of time in a government position.  In the corporate, for profit, environment as time passed and you climbed the ladder and your salary rose you often become a bigger target for "right sizing" (or to put it bluntly, the corporation wants to make the most money possible and firing you and hiring cheaper looks more appealing after your salary grows).  In contrast, with government your greatest risk of loosing the job is in the early years of the position.  In fact, many government jobs have built in protections for "career" employees.  If job security is high on your priority list, government may be a great employer choice for you.  Salaries and benefits can also be lucrative in government.  Government waste is no secret and it happens in the purchase of human assets as much as in the purchase of $200 toilet seats.  (In some cases that I've seen, the toilet seat was the better deal).  There are few corporations or not for profits which will guarantee a pension after a fixed period of service; many government entities do provide a pension although it has been scaled back for many recent hires.  Before you rush to land your government job, I encourage you to carefully consider the creativity and self expression dimension.  Simply stated government positions can be extremely stifling.  Implementation of some of those "little" improvements you identify may be precluded by unmovable obstacles.  During my government stint, I posted the Serenity Prayer at my station to remind me of "those things you cannot change...".  In government there are a lot of "those things" and is can be very demoralizing.

G's "Government" rankings:
  • Job Security:  5
  • Income potential:  4
  • Creativity and self expression:  1

I grew up on a family dairy farm and my recollections are not of the Hollywood "Green Acres" variety, but of an enterprise that was a demanding 24x7.  I say this upfront as the term "Entrepreneur" often conjures a romanticized image much like believing farming resembles Green Acres.  As an Entrepreneur, you are "your own boss," but it is all on you!  Truly, it is high risk, but can be high reward; you must evaluate your risk tolerance prior to jumping in.  If you are young and have parents you can fall back on, you are in a great position to go for it.  For others, there are wider issues that may preclude you from going down this path.  I attempted to dip my toes in the Entrepreneur pond on a couple of occasions, at one time selling Real Estate as a licensed agent and also attempting to rehab and rent real estate.   In addition to the 24 hour nature of being an entrepreneur, you must also consider the challenges of this choice.  These challenges include, but are not limited to health insurance and an income to cover housing and food while your business is maturing.  As I can well attest, it is extremely difficult to split your energy among a full time job for income and benefits, your family and friends AND an entrepreneurial adventure.

Entrepreneurship calls the creative and the persistent.  Who knows, perhaps those with the tenacity to start and maintain a blog have been called.