WorkHappy Talk: Find inspiration in Megan Austin’s faith-filled journey to career happiness

by Joe Szynkowski | January 12, 2018 | Workhappy Blog

As Director of the Murphysboro Food Pantry in Southern Illinois, Megan Austin works alongside numerous community partners who are focused on one primary goal: Feeding the hungry.

She has followed an interesting – and not always linear path – to reach this point in her career. After a season of personal heartbreak and challenges, Megan persevered to find her new calling.

“I feel that God opened the doors which lead me to where I am today,” she says. “Though running an organization like this provides great challenges, I am able to see His work daily.”

Read on to learn more about Megan’s story and how she works every day to better the lives of those around her.

With the food pantry, you’re working with a lot of dedicated volunteers and community partners to make a big difference for a lot of people…Why do you love your current work situation?

I love this job for so many reasons. On one hand we make a direct impact here at the food pantry by providing nutritious foods to those families who are going through hard times, and we are glad that we can sort of act as a safety net for their basic life needs.

On the other hand, it is incredible to go into work with a crew of volunteers. Our volunteers are one of a kind, and every single one of them provides a quality that the pantry needs to be the success that it is. I believe our clients like coming in and being greeted by our volunteers.

I absolutely love seeing the community help others within the community here in Jackson County – organizations like churches and businesses and individuals, as well. This is what we depend on to keep us afloat.

Megan with Makayla Harrison, visiting the Murphysboro Food Pantry with her father, Jason Harrison, to donate food on behalf of New Life Church of Carbondale. “I enjoy having children come in and take a tour of the pantry,” Megan says. “I love that this position gives me the ability to share and create an interest of giving in our youth.”

Can you share a specific story about something that has happened during your work with the pantry that has made you appreciate the importance of your role?  

When I hear our clients tell our volunteers how much they appreciate the pantry and their work it makes me feel really good. The days that I get to talk one-on-one with our clients are the days that I feel like my work is impacting a great amount of people.

I really enjoy connecting with them, and I hope that they can not only rely on us for food when they need it, but they can also rely on us for friendly service, fair treatment and a warm smile.

What has the road to career happiness been like for you? What have been some of your primary challenges?

Though there have been a lot of challenges, I have always tried hardest to cling to my faith. Of course, some days are more challenging than others when 37,000 individuals rely on you and donations from the community.  I think a notable challenge was when I first started at the pantry in September.

I had just gone through a couple of heartbreaking losses in my personal life and I can only guess depression and grief were settling in because I didn’t want to do much of anything.

Additionally, I started my last semester and my internship (here at the pantry) for the graduate program I am enrolled in.  I was juggling a ton of emotions along with a lot of change with a new job, an internship and night classes.

I had several weak moments, but really I found that I had a new sense of purpose. The idea of people relying on me for nourishment keeps me more than motivated.

Nonetheless, I am grateful to have a safety net and support of family and friends that help me through my tough times. When many people like our clients don’t have that option, I am happy we can step in. I know that we are serving that elderly gentleman who is making too little on SSI to keep his fridge stocked. We are serving that single mother with two kids on one income. We are serving that veteran in need of food supplies.

There are many different individual situations that can render ones’ need for the pantry and I like to think what the pantry and our community donors provide makes life a bit easier on them. I feel that is what our society should be doing for one another as much as possible.

Can you tell me about your educational background and how it has played a role in shaping your career?

I let God control my path, and prayed for strength and patience along the way. When I graduated from Southern Illinois University with my Bachelor’s in Nutrition, I was one of the few who didn’t have a job in line.

I knew that if I kept plugging away and applying for jobs that God would provide. It so happened, about two weeks after I graduated, I ended up with a job teaching nutrition education to people of all ages in Jackson County.

One of the places that I spent my time teaching was the Murphysboro Food Pantry. I grew to love the MFP and its mission.

What’s your advice to people who may feel like they are “stuck” in unhappy work situations?

They don’t have to be. Personally, I have always felt that if I kept plugging along and praying I will eventually see something positive unfold. Opportunities are available every day, you just have to know what’s right for you and have the confidence to go for it and work hard for it!

 

Inspired, anyone?! After reading Megan’s insights, how can you not be motivated to find a more fulfilling career for yourself? Check out the Murphysboro Food Pantry’s website at http://murphysborofoodpantry.org. If you’re a local reader, you can bring your donations during office hours (8 a.m. to noon) Monday through Friday or reach out to the pantry at 618.684.8258.

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