This past week, the Careers for the Common Good team held the Debunking the Myths of Working for a Nonprofit Panel. The discussion included four recent UConn alumni who shared their experiences working for a nonprofit organization and some of the misconceptions that come along with it. Each representative was from a non-profit organization that has a different target population and mission. These individuals offered helpful insights about the current job market, advice tailored towards UConn undergraduate students, and an inside perspective on the life of a nonprofit professional. Here is a quick description of who they are and what type of work they do:
- Fabiola Bachinelo is a 2018 & 2019 UConn graduate working as an Accreditation Associate with the National Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).
- Nicole Sanclemente is a 2019 UConn graduate working as a Policy and Programs Associate with the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWELF).
- Xavier Arriga is a 2019 UConn graduate working as a Policy Analyst with The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
- Shona Barton is a 2018 UConn graduate working as a Recruitment Associate with The Literacy Lab.
If you weren’t able to make the live panel, here are 3 myths that were debunked at the event and what you can do with this information as graduation approaches!
- Nonprofit work offers few opportunities for advancement
It is often said that nonprofit organizations are tough to work for due to a lack of advancement opportunities, which can lead to inadequate salary for an extended period of time. Our panelists spoke from experience and said this is usually not the case. Many employees of nonprofit organizations in leadership positions make an average- to above-average salary having started in an entry level position. Our panelists discussed how professionally supported they feel by their organization and how nonprofits allow their employees to advance in the organization. Nonprofit organizations offer lots of opportunities to grow personally and professionally as well as progress within the sector and into leadership positions.
2. There is too much pressure to go above and beyond due to passion for a cause
It’s common to think that because nonprofit work comes from a place of passion, it’s expected that you go above and beyond in your work even when that means extra stress or time that you don’t have. This is another myth our panelists debunked strongly. Although nonprofit work is passionate, it’s not expected that you sacrifice your mental health or put in extra time and stress for your work any more than a normal career would. All careers are difficult and time-consuming, and nonprofit work is no different; however, it’s not expected that your passion for a cause becomes a load too heavy to carry. Our panelists discussed how satisfied they feel when they see their work create results because of how passionate they feel. However, the pressure on employees to work in the nonprofit world is the same as it would be for any other career.
3. Finding experience is difficult and usually only through unpaid internships
Some students find concern in the idea that unpaid internships are the only way to gain experience in the field. This can be very troubling considering that many students have things to pay for and can’t afford to do work without receiving compensation. Our panelists discussed this as well. Many of them did not have experience prior to joining the nonprofit industry and gained useful skills in jobs such as retail. It’s sometimes expected of us as college students that professional experiences are the only way to develop the skills we need, however, any job no matter how small it seems provides us with transferable skills that we can take with us into the job market.
These are just some of the myths that were debunked during the Careers for the Common Good Debunking the Myths of Working for a Nonprofit Panel. Our panelists were very educational and offered great insight into what it’s like for a UConn graduate to go into the nonprofit world.
Be on the lookout for upcoming Careers for the Common Good events, and if you were unable to make the panel, you can view a recording of the discussion here.