Breaking into the Nonprofit Sector

The nonprofit sector is a growing field and becoming a viable career option for individuals looking to make impact through their work.  As more people are looking for meaningful work, it is important for you to understand the sector, yourself and your goals. Here are a few tips to help you break into nonprofit work!

  1. Self-Reflect

Self-reflection is a key part of any career development plan. This process can help you in thinking about what issues or causes are most important to you; from this you can begin to consider organizations that work around these topics.  In addition, honest assessments of your skills, capabilities and motivations can help you understand what roles within an organization you may fit well into.

  1. Learn about the Nonprofit Sector

Now a days, nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes, addressing issues from A to Z.  The core of nonprofit work typically exist to provide services that benefit the public though generating support for a cause or providing a direct services.  Once you have reflected on what issues are important to you, begin searching for nonprofits within that area.

  1. Volunteer

Service can be a key element to learning about the inner workings of nonprofit organizations. By volunteering your time, you not only get to experience what work would be like, but it also demonstrates to the organization your dedication to making a difference. Volunteering also enables you to make great contacts with likeminded people – you never know where these relationships can lead!

  1. Understand the Pros and Cons

There are a lot of misconceptions about nonprofit work, but it is important to think about the pros and cons to decide what a good fit is for you. Common challenges include salary differences, limited resources and potential burnout. Often, nonprofits are smaller so they may not have as many resources for employees. On the other hand, benefits includes wearing many hats to gain a breadth of experience, hands on experiences, work with purpose and likeminded co-workers. If you are early in your career, some of these benefits may outweigh some challenges, but it is important to evaluate the organizations you are looking to work for to see if the position would work for you.

  1. Update your Résumé

Too often, volunteering on a resume is left to a one line blip about your service. If you are applying to the nonprofit sector, you should consider expanding the volunteering section of your résumé crafting bullet points that really explain the what, how and why of your work. Service can be more important than some paid work when applying to the third sector, so do not discredit your volunteer experience. After your résumé is updates, might as well update your LinkedIn profile while you are at it!

  1. Network

Once you have found an organization you are interested in, network, network, network!  Talk with individuals from your service sites, follow organizations on LinkedIn, look into alumni associations, sign up for nonprofit list serves and reach out for informational interviews. Making connections through a variety of channels will help you not only build a network, but will help you explain to a variety of people why you are interested in the field.

  1. Stay up to Date

Whether you are in a nonprofit organization or you are just keeping your eyes out for opportunities, stay up to date on what is going in on the field of your interest! Keep your contacts up to date on your work and continue your networking. Like I said – you never know where relationships can lead!

Image: Google Images

By Erin Jouliot
Erin Jouliot Careers for the Common Good (CCG) Graduate Assistant Erin Jouliot