How to Make a Career Transition to the Nonprofit World

This article was first posted on the New England Job Show blog: http://nejs.org/2010/12/06/career-transition-how-to-make-a-career-transition-to-the-nonprofit-world/


By Leigh Harris


In the corporate world, many of us reach a point where we question financial success while sacrificing personal rewards. Jobs focused solely on money eventually lose appeal. We yearn to make a difference in the world.

Now is the time to bring talents to the nonprofit world.

Before sending out a stellar resume, however, it helps to know what a nonprofit organization expects in their hiring process.

How do you get hired in a nonprofit organization, and give more meaning to your 40 hour work week?

1. Rediscover your passions and values

What is important to you? What gets your heart pumping? Perhaps your child has asthma, and you lie awake some nights worrying about the last trip to emergency. Maybe you are successful in business because as a child you lived from paycheck to paycheck, your mother barely having enough food the last few dinners before payday. Perhaps you are passionate about sports, and understand the mental, health and physical benefits of an active lifestyle.

Write down your passions and values, and which organizations align with them. Ask friends and family what they know about local organizations, and select a few to conduct an information interview.

2. Match your skill set to their goals

When you dedicate your workday to a nonprofit, how will you help the organization meet its goals? Determine how you can offer your skill set to clearly and succinctly meet their objectives and strategic plan. Remember, it isn’t about you and your professional growth, though you will discover your intrinsic needs being met through this work. They want a sincere offer of help, with a professional approach.

Visit the organization’s website or local office. Read their annual reports, which should be publicly available. Understand their mission statement, objectives and goals. What peaks your interest? Dedicated volunteers usually include a board of directors. One of them may be able to give you a personal perspective of the organization. Another may be able to point to gaps in service or staffing positions.

Once you determine how your skill set meets their bottom line, you can approach this job prospect with their best interests in mind. Though this is an effective approach for corporations, it is the only approach for nonprofits.

3. Redesign your resume to highlight relevant unpaid experience

Do you intentionally leave off hobbies and interests in your current resume? While most corporate headhunters recommend this, in the nonprofit world your interests may align with the values of your target organization. Perhaps you volunteer for your child’s Boy Scout (or Girl Scout) camping trip. Your active focus on health and nutrition will benefit the asthma, cancer or sports organization you pursue.

If you actively volunteer or have a passionate interest in line with your target, ensure it is on your resume.

4. Prepare for your interview

Your interview is the key. In the corporate world, your interviewer wants your experience to effect change or assist current leaders with their vision. In the nonprofit world, they want the same and more. They want to hear your passion about their goals, and your intention to stick with them.

If you are at a crossroads in your career, and want to apply your talents to a greater cause, consider the benefits your experience will bring to a nonprofit organization.

About Leigh Harris

Leigh has been a career and personal development coach for 15 years, 5 years in nonprofit organizations. In her spare time she volunteers for nonprofits and in education.

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