My last day with Make-A-Wish Illinois was this week. As they said their farewells to my intern class in a conference room filled with photos of smiling kids, they told us how many wishes had been granted during our time and how much more we had helped prepare to make them come true. Then they asked us what was next. As the only intern who wasn’t about to graduate from college, I paused when the room looked to me. “Well, I have another year at Northwestern, and then I guess… nonprofits?” I shrugged, and we moved on.
As vague as this answer was, six months ago it would have been even less specific. I’ve been warily interested in nonprofit work for a long time. I love the idea of my career being tied to my personal passions and I know I want to feel that my work is making an impact. However, I was shy of the slow advancement and low pay that’s often mentioned in the same sentence as nonprofit work. Amid pre-med, pre-law, and consulting students I questioned if I was dedicated enough to spend my time on something that can be challenging and low-reward. After my five months at Make-A-Wish, I have found a firmly positive answer to that question.
Non-profit work, whether political, medical, or otherwise, gives you an opportunity to make your emotional passion into your job. It gives that sense of fulfillment that many people struggle with as they leave their organizations and hobbies behind as they move into post-grad life. I’m incredibly lucky to have been at Northwestern and I feel compelled to use what I’ve learned here to impact the world positively as so many people have done for me. This doesn’t have to mean working for a non-profit- it could be teaching, discovering new technologies, lobbying for political change, or any other way you can use your talents. But I do believe we have an obligation to take our Northwestern education and pass it on in whatever way we can. I still don’t have all my specifics laid out. Nonprofit work can mean fund-raising, legal work, event planning, marketing, PR, or anything else you enjoy doing.
I’m still searching for how I want to use my skills and what sort of work I want to do. I’m happy that I’ve found a passion for non-profit work and that I have at least that much direction. There will be other internships and opportunities where I can learn where my talents lie. Until then, I can just be happy that I’ve made any contribution possible to the amazing organizations I’ve been a part of.
Olivia Kuncio is a junior Communication Studies student who is interning at The Make-A-Wish Foundation this quarter.