Ask yourself this question, “Do I want to change the world?” This is how you identify the non-profit workers of the world. They will be shouting it from the rooftops.
Maybe you’ve heard that little voice in your head, calling you to ditch the for-profit world, put on some earth shoes and khaki’s and jump in with your fellow humans. As you grow older, you tend to hear that voice less and less, but it’s then that you’re in a position to act. When you heard the voice in your youth, perhaps in college, or a church youth group, you had the passion and energy to move, but lacked the funding and experience to be a true player in the game with a seat at the table.
If you found yourself in this recent economy, downsized, re-tasked or outright terminated, now is the time to put all that experience to work, not only for yourself, but for others in need. The growth in the non-profit sector is off the charts and they are screaming for good people with all types of experience. Many of them pay quite well, so don’t automatically think (Non-Profit = No Paycheck). You can earn a great salary with benefits in today’s non-profit sector and engage your soul at the same time. Not a bad deal.
1. Play Dora the Explorer and explore the non-profit sector
The stereotype of non-profit workers as preachy do-gooders reading to the elderly is only a fraction of a percent of what is going on there now. The nonprofit sector is a booming field that needs just as many creative, out-of-the-box thinking individuals as the corporate field do, possible even more. Non-profits have a dual burden of needing to raise funds and to spark community support to be truly successful. Many of the brightest minds and fascinating people are jumping in to do just that, join the crowd.
The first idea a new professional has to grasp is to understand the basics of the sector. Before diving head-first into the job market, know the differences in missions and goals that nonprofits have, and the differences in the salaries, retirement plans, and advancement opportunities they have to offer you. Do your research and make sure that you are aligning yourself with a portion of the sector which works with your ethics and personal beliefs. Joining up with Greenpeace if you really like to eat big honking tuna steaks and being okay with the dolphins that get killed when caught in the fishing nets may not work for you or Greenpeace.
2. Network with people who know the Non-profits or work in them
Tap into those who have paved the way for you and others. Get to know them on social media sites, web or podcasts, read books, blogs, pamphlets, texts, tweets and anything you can get your hands on to be prepared for your initial conversation. Know the players in the game before you arrive and you’ll come out a winner.
Use networking sites like LinkedIn, Idealist.org, NonProfitJobs.org and Change.org to connect with professionals who have worked in the field for a few years. Ask to speak by phone, meet up for coffee or skype with them to pick their brains about their work. You’ll find most of them more than happy to share their experiences. You may also gain some valuable insights of what types of tasks will be expected of you, this can be of immeasurable value to your search.
3. Start at the bottom : Volunteer
Once we hold those high school and college diplomas in our hands, volunteering seems to suddenly fall out of the picture. We don’t have the desire to help others as much we we desire to help ourselves first. I’m not saying that you have to move to another country or even volunteer full-time to get your feet wet. A part-time, local volunteer experience can demonstrate your dedication to being part of an organization that works for a cause you believe in, plus give you a first-hand look at what the nonprofit field is really all about. Make sure that if you want to go this route, you give every bit as much of yourself as you would to a for-profit job, as that is the only true way to gauge the appeal of the job and also how you’ll do with it.
Volunteering helps you to take in skills and experience that you can use to land your first nonprofit job. You’ll learn hands-on problem-solving experience, how to function in group collaborations and have the opportunity to learn about social issues up close.
4. Mission ONE: What do they stand for?
When you begin your search in the non-profit world, make your first task to create your own mission statement. Keep it simple to start – who you see yourself as, what you want to accomplish, how you plan on reaching that/those goals, and most importantly, who you want to make an impact on. That last point meaning ~ who is your client and how can you best serve them in the role you wish to work in? You cannot work in a field where “impact” is the base, core component without first knowing the “impact” that you want to make.
Look for nonprofits that share your mission. Finding organizations that match-up with your personal passions and philosophies will help you land a job that really does fulfill you on a deeper level. This is most likely the overriding tenet which probably drew you to look at nonprofit work in the first place.
Just as in a for-profit career search, identify your skills, strengths, and transferable abilities, and search for an organization in need of them. The dream is out there ~ go find it.
5. Know what stirs the coffee of the organization
There are currently over one million nonprofit organizations operating in North America alone, check Google. A search there is bound to give you a few thousand hits for whatever kind of non-profit you may be looking for. Conducting research to influencing policy, organizing activists or working the gun lobby, every organization has a pulse and a drive. When it comes time to send your résumé and hopefully gain that first interview, you absolutely need to know what motivates your potential new bosses before you take your first step through their door. Without that information, you may as well call it a day and go plant a tree for yourself.
In standard job search, you always need to know the essential “W”s: the Who, What, Why, Where and occasionally When of the organization you are trying to work for. What does your organization do? Whom do they serve? Why are they driven by this issue? Also toss in the big “H”, or How do they do what they do? Once you have identified their cause, there are many approaches an organization might take to attack it ~ hands-on field work, lobbying, publishing white papers, spreading grass-roots movements and a hundred other methods. It is totally worth your time to consider where you’ll want to be and what you will be doing.
I do know from experience, that the little voice will only get louder. If you are passionate about “being a part of the solution” or if international developments make your heart pound, then get out there and start digging. Throw your passion and your resume in your knapsack and find a job to wrap your arms around that will finally let you be that change you’ve been hoping to see in the world all along.
Let it start in YOU.