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The Unsung Benefits of Community Jobs: Flexibility and Respect

First published: 8th July 2010.

Anna Tito has been working with EthicalJobs.com.au for almost a year, but is sadly leaving for more exciting times in South America.  But she’s left us with her thoughts on working in a variety community jobs over the past seven years – Thanks Anna!

WE often hear about the pay discrepancy between community jobs and jobs in other sectors, however we rarely hear about the non-monetary benefits of working in these sectors.

I have worked in community sector for the last seven years and while I do believe the pay discrepancy is wrong and should be remedied, it is something I knew about when I entered the sector. I made a considered choice to accept a lower rate of pay because I felt that the non-monetary benefits of the sector far outweighed the extra money I could get working in these other industries.

My career in the community sector is coming to an end, however before I go I wanted to share with you all the things that I love about working in community jobs and the things that kept me working in the sector for so long:

Flexible hours

This was one of the most valuable benefits to me throughout my career in the community sector. The flexible working hours allowed me to balance my work, studies, family commitments and volunteering. When I had exams my workplaces were usually more than willing to let me shift around my hours for the week. If someone in my family got sick, as long as I did my hours and fulfilled my work obligations, the specific hours I was in the office could be rearranged.

New challenges give you room to grow

Working in the community sector is never boring.  I have worked in advocacy, consumer, refuges and peak organisations, and every one of those jobs was different. One day I’d be doing the filing, the next I’d be helping to make coffee at a cafe.  One day I’d be organising wages, and the one after that I’d be helping furnish apartments. There was never a dull moment and I was always given the go ahead to extend my skills in new and interesting ways if the opportunity arose. If you have the capacity to work hard and the determination to always do your best, the sector is full of interesting opportunities to do new and interesting things.

Respect for the individual

No matter what your cultural or personal background, your life choices, lifestyle choices or sexuality, you are respected for the work you do. The community sector doesn’t care about your nationality, your religion or creed, you can be who you are and as long as you are respectful of others and work hard, people respect you and the work you do.

Work colleagues who care

We work with people who care and this comes through into the workplaces, they become like your extended family. It is important to remember that like all families some days their generosity and competence will inspire you, other days you will be tired and worn out and grumpy with them all and yet others you will passionately disagree with them. But when you need them, no matter the impassioned battles you have had, your work colleagues genuinely care about you and will be there for you.

No Suits

While for some people this may seem frivolous, it is more broadly important than many realise. In the community sector no one says you can’t wear those earrings, have that tattoo, have that coloured hair or wear that shirt.  It makes the work you do more important than the image you portray. This is not to say that you can’t wear a suit, but it does mean that that it’s not the suit that matters, it’s the work you do.

Meaningful work

This is the more commonly touted reason for working in a community job, and it’s true, seeing value in what you do and doing good in the world is a wonderful and very rewarding thing. This aspect helps you see the light on those hard days when you are overworked and tired. It is a wonderful thing to know that your work and presence will help others, and it is the thing that keeps you coming back.

Some days it will be hard, some days you don’t know why you do it.  But remember all the things I’ve mentioned, and I hope something there will ring true for you. Above all remember what you do helps to build a better world, it makes a grass roots difference to the lives of the people in our community.  I thank you all for the unique and wonderful working environment you have created and I encourage those of you thinking of a career in the community sector to go for it – it’s worth every moment.

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