scorecardI went to work at a nonprofit. It left me feeling overworked and alienated from a cause I loved — so I quit.
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I went to work at a nonprofit. It left me feeling overworked and alienated from a cause I loved — so I quit.

Fortesa Latifi   

I went to work at a nonprofit. It left me feeling overworked and alienated from a cause I loved — so I quit.
Careers3 min read
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  • Insider spoke to a former nonprofit employee who chose their job based on their passion for the cause.
  • But they soon realized it wasn't enough. In 12 months, they felt overworked and alienated, so they quit.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a former nonprofit employee who quit their job working for a cause they were passionate about. They spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their career, but Insider has verified their identity and former employment. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

In April 2020, I got a new job at a pro-choice abortion-rights organization. It was something I believed in, and I knew I could make a difference.

Twelve months later, I resigned.

I've always had the mindset that the work I spend my life doing has to feel meaningful and significant to me, but I also struggled with what most people struggle with: the need to go to work every day and get through it to pay your bills. It felt like I was just pushing through to make it to the next day — until I had the experience of being an immunocompromised person during a pandemic.

Suddenly, everything felt different. I was home all the time to keep myself safe from COVID-19, and though I was working remotely, I had a lot of time to think. I started considering: Was I spending my working life doing what I wanted to do, or was I sacrificing my mental and physical health for a job that I didn't even like?

Because I started my job at the abortion-rights organization during the first wave of lockdowns, I had to train remotely, which was difficult. It felt like there was really no organization to the remote onboarding process, but I was still excited by the prospect of working for an organization whose mission I believed in so deeply: expanding abortion access.

As a regional field manager, I knew organizing would be a large aspect of my job, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the tasks I was expected to undertake — like sending thousands of text messages and making thousands of phone calls every day. I started to feel like the weight of the upcoming 2020 presidential election was resting on how many messages I could send.

Even though I was working for an organization I believed in, it felt like I was only worth as much as the numbers I could put up, and I was disappointed at how long it took the organization to issue statements on the Black Lives Matter movement.

I knew the organization could be quick with breaking stories — when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, we had tons of graphics and social copy ready. But it balked at stating what I feel is obvious: that Black Lives Matter. As an Afro-Latina, that is not up for debate to me, and I want to work somewhere that feels the same way.

All my negative feelings about my job came to a head one morning, when I woke up with a terrible cramping pain in my shoulders from hunching over my laptop for so many hours. I had to call out of work and spend the day easing the tension with a hot water bottle. Even a few days later, I didn't have a full range of motion.

It became clear that this job wasn't working for me anymore. The focus on numbers instead of relationships felt coldly corporate, and there wasn't enough attention paid to what I was bringing to the organization. Not only was my health suffering, but I felt more alienated than ever from a movement I really cared about.

Although I was scared to resign from a job I'd been so happy to land in the first place, I knew it wasn't the right place for me anymore. As a millennial, I think my generation has grown up watching our parents give up so much for their work, and we're tired of the expectation that we'll give up even more.

People think we just need to work harder, but that's not the solution. This system is broken, and we don't want to be exploited.

As an immigrant, I watched how much my parents gave up to give my sister and I the life we have. Now, we won't tolerate employment where we're just another number. We know we bring talent and knowledge and value to a company — not to mention our inherent worth as human beings.

If the Great Resignation brings about any lasting change, I hope it's that workers gain more power. I want people to be able to find employment on their terms and be paid fair wages. They deserve strong unions that will protect their interests. Employers have to realize that if they're not able to shift their company culture, they will become irrelevant and obsolete.

People don't want to settle for toxic work atmospheres, and I'm so proud that I'm one of the people who chose not to anymore.