|Despite Spiritual Perks, Recession Means More Pressure On Islamic Org Employees|
|Community News - Community News|
|Written by Wafa Unus Muslim Link Staff Writer|
|Thursday, 29 March 2012 14:10|
As the country attempts to bounce back from a recession and individuals still clamor for lucrative jobs where stability trumps salary in a time of layoffs, some have chosen to move from big business to small town community jobs in search of more than a paycheck while others find they can no longer afford to pick passion over pay and growth potential.
Sayeed Jaweed formerly worked at NASA but left his IT job for a far less financially lucrative position at Dar-us-Salaam, the community building project that is the home of the Al Huda Islamic school in College Park, Maryland.
The D.C. metro area is rich with Muslim organizations and masajids. Major national organizations have headquarters in the nation’s capital and its surrounding cities.
Dar-us-Salaam itself employees approximately 100 individuals.
Moving from a large company to a small non-profit venture was not an easy transition for Jaweed, but the desire to work in a Muslim environment trumped the financial cut. Despite his family’s initial objections, he decided to make the switch.
“It was a difficult [decision]. My family was questioning such a move and parents were questioning such a move,” said Jaweed. “From [the family] they see the materialistic side. You’re at NASA. You have a nice job. In their mind when you see working at the Islamic school or the masjid they’re thinking of the masjid they are used to which is one or two people, an Imam and no infrastructure.”
For Jaweed, the everyday task of finding a place to pray in his NASA office building, skirting around coworkers conversations about personal relationships and avoiding the after work drinks simply wasn’t the work environment in which he felt comfortable.
“It’s one of those things where you’re in an environment where you can’t really express any Islamic or religious type of identity,” said Jaweed.
Having volunteered at the school for four years, he began to realize that the workload between a full time job at NASA and his volunteer work at the school was taking its toll.
“As the school kept growing and growing and the things I needed to do for the school kept increasing to the point that it became very difficult doing [it only] on weekends and evenings. It came to the point that I needed to just make the switch full time.”
Jaweed was faced with a decision. Either leave his volunteer post at Al Huda to someone who had the time to put in the work needed, or leave his well paying position working at one of the most recognizable names arguably in the world, to dedicate all his time to an Islamic school.
“I felt like what was going on here at [Al Huda] was really positive and I couldn’t turn my back on it,’ he said.
While Jaweed admitted his job change resulted in a pay cut and stagnation in annual growth potential, he still didn’t feel the financial hit had the impact most might expect it to have had. He credits that to the fact that his wife is also employed and that their collective income allowed for a similar standard of living.
That was not the case for Omar Madani, who made the the opposite switch, moving from a masjid job to a for-profit education software company.
While he enjoyed the perks of working in a Muslim environment, the compensation just wasn’t enough to support his new family.
“One of the main things was the amount of compensation available,” he said. If the compensation at my old job was anywhere near what I’m making here I would have stayed there. I’m making about more than twice what I was making there.”
Still, he misses some of the non monetary perks of his old position working at Dar-Us-Salaam in College Park, Maryland.
“One of the intangible benefits is the community support you get from a [Muslim] organization. They care about your life and not just your productivity,” said Madani.
However, Madani does feel the benefits of working for a more structured company. Over his nearly seven years working within Muslim business and organizations he found little opportunity for employee improvement through formal training.
“There are also opportunities for training [at my new job]. A lot of training in my old job was self training,” he said.
To the Muslim organizations and businesses he’s worked for in the past, and to others like them Madani urges they provide what they can to help their employees improve their skill sets on a regular basis.
“I’d say that if you can’t outright give them compensation try to make up for it in intangible benefits,” said Madani.
Madani also noted a distinct difference in employee management.
“Muslim organizations tend to be understaffed,” he said. “You learn what you need to in order to get the job done. You kind of tailor yourself to the needs of the organization.”
In his current job he’s found that the basic needs of the employee are better looked after. While they may be more formal, they are regular and efficient.
“In the Islamic organizations it seems to be a little more informal and personal but personal doesn’t always mean responsive,” said Madani.
Madani said he understood the situation of the average cash strapped and understaffed Muslim organization but when he had to make a decision between staying at an organization where he enjoyed the camaraderie and the cause of the work and a career that catered to skills development and provided the pay he needed, he chose the latter.
While Muslim organizations may provide their employees with a sense of intangible fulfillment, gaps in pay and concerns about possible career advancement cause some to seek long-term employment elsewhere.
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