How and Why Did I Choose to Work as Humanitarian Worker to Have a Greater Impact?
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
I believe our career choices are the most significant opportunity to make a difference. We all have about 80,000 hours in our career: 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for 40 years. This makes our choice of career the most critical decision of our life. If we can increase the positive impact of those hours just a little, it will probably have a more significant impact than changes to any other part of our life. Here is my answer to one of the most asked questions that I received about this critical decision; “How and why do I end up in the humanitarian sector?”
I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations in 2015. I thought I had two paths; working for the government or private companies. I dreamed of becoming a diplomat and representing my country worldwide. In my second year, I attended the Diplomacy School seminar series. However, my dream faded while listening to the challenges and field experiences of the retired ambassadors.
Later, I was more interested in graduate and post-graduate studies and becoming an academician. However, I scratched that as I went through academic burnout due to doing a double major and taking around ten courses per semester. Towards the end of my studies, I was more inclined to the private sector as I graduated and committed to starting my life. After a few months of job hunting and taking business-related courses, I started to work in the private sector at the foreign trade department of a company.
On my first day of work, one of my senior colleagues told me he would share the secret of this job. I was eager to learn and asked what it was. He told me that you needed to know how to lie professionally to succeed in this job. That was the moment I decided to leave this job. I’m not blaming the whole sector for one comment, but it was a bitter experience. As it was my first job and I had to earn my living, I had to bear for a few months more and master my sales pitch. When I was sure it was not for me, I started an academic career at a university. I was teaching English at a university and doing my master’s degree. However, I was still not feeling satisfied.
While researching for a presentation on EU-Turkey Deal, I found videos of NGOs working for Syrian refugees in Turkey. That was the same time 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, together with his older brother and his mother, died from drowning in the Aegean Sea trying to reach Europe. I was devastated and shocked by the tragedy; I cried while watching. That was when I decided to transition to a more impactful job for these children. After six months of actively seeking jobs in humanitarian organizations, I started to work for a health-focused organization in 2017.
The humanitarian organizations working for the refugees in Turkey, such as my current organization, Save the Children, were doing fantastic work to save lives and support and relieve the pains of more than 2 million migrants. In Turkey and around the world, we work daily to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm.
I have worked at different humanitarian organizations and positions to maximize my impact. For me, humanitarian work is not just a job, it’s a mission and a passion. Apart from my various roles in Turkey, I also went to Kyiv to support Ukraine Emergency Response as a Safeguarding Advisor. My role was to minimize the risk of harm to children, the community we serve, and my colleagues while delivering humanitarian aid to children and their families in Ukraine.
The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is very dire, as hundreds of children and people died, and millions of people were displaced, as is the case for other emergencies like Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. A few days ago, I wrote in my LinkedIn newsletter that Kyiv and Lviv were relatively safe, except for the air sirens/alerts we hear almost daily. When I was there, I was walking around the Glass Bridge almost daily, which was struck by a missile a few days ago. Our office was less than 1 km away from the playground attacked. Now Kyiv, Lviv, and nowhere is safe.
Humanitarian work, especially in emergencies, is challenging as we working conflict areas or in the aftermath of natural disasters or we hear traumatic stories from the community we serve. However, as you are touching people’s lives, it’s incredibly fulfilling. If you are interested in becoming a humanitarian worker, you may check Relief Web or your favorite job boards with the humanitarian or ngo keyword filters. I found all my jobs in this sector via Gelbasla, a Turkish job board mainly for nongovernmental and international organizations.
As I said in the beginning, our career choice is the most significant opportunity to make a difference. However, I’m not suggesting that you need to become a humanitarian worker to have a greater impact. This was my path until now, but there are so many other possibilities. To get more information, in-depth guidance, and new ideas for high-impact careers, you may check 80000hours. If you have any questions or comments, please share them below.
Until next time, have a happy and healthy day!