Should I Consider a Job in Nonprofits?
You are on the fence about working in nonprofits. You want to build a long-lasting career but are unsure whether experience in this sector will grow your professional prospects. Some people assume no, but don’t be too quick to dismiss an opportunity in this field.
By working in non-profits, you glean life-long lessons and build transferable skills as you connect with clients, community members, and donors. Before you know it, you are increasing your problem-solving abilities by supporting a low-income neighborhood with more affordable food options or promoting equal opportunity employment and diversity so individuals can obtain the jobs they deserve.
Working in nonprofits, whether in small town neighborhoods or well-known international organizations, provides a pathway to discover your skills and how you can best invest them in your career today and for years to come. And here are three benefits that map out how that’s true.
Gain Foundational Skills
Corporate and nonprofit jobs are polar opposites, right? Not necessarily–at least in the skills needed to succeed. A corporation wants a client who is satisfied with a product or service, just like a nonprofit wants a donor who is committed to the cause or community member who feels served. Both are trying to connect with their stakeholders or end customers. Either way, every decision made is with the cause or the client in mind.
However, there is a key ingredient in every nonprofit role: patience. For example, you may be excited about creating a non-profit food coop or inviting potential donors across the country to a webinar that highlights the need for more economical grocery stores in each state, but you need insight from the people you’re helping. Admittedly, attaining feedback from community members can be slow going. You will knock on numerous doors that never open and receive endless no-thank-you email responses to your noble efforts.
Or maybe you have created the most interactive and supportive after-school program to encourage creativity and art, but those programs don’t magically gain traction overnight. Earning people’s trust in a community takes time and effort on the part of those facilitating the programs themselves.
Additionally, you may need to learn or invest in skills far different than what the job description initially laid out (flexibility is often the second key ingredient in nonprofit work). But if you persist, seeds of determination and faithfulness can yield fruitful results, especially as you invest in your network.
Grow Your Network
Fundraising and networking are staples in the nonprofit world. Without the generous support of businesses and organizations, many nonprofits could never get off the ground.
Often, one of the main avenues for gaining increased financial backing comes from events. And if the opportunity arises for you speak on behalf of your nonprofit, you have a primetime chance to push your communication skills to the next level and share your mission.
This isn’t a 60-second-rehearsed elevator pitch. Why should your audience care about your cause? Create a colorful picture for them. Talk about the demographics and conditions of your neighborhood. Tell about the interview you had with a middle school student who longs to have canvases to paint the story that he’s been dreaming about for years. Show them success videos of other communities who’ve been able to bring food to hard-working single moms who are struggling to make ends meet. Tell them why your cause will make a difference.
Public speaking may not be your cup of joe, or your organization may not even have these open doors, but other avenues exist. One of the best tools a nonprofit can (and most definitely should) employ is the art of writing. Written communication lets your organization’s story come to life, allowing your mission to resonate with people across the globe. This can be accomplished through a compelling website, monthly newsletters, blogs on relevant and related topics, email campaigns, and even handwritten thank-you cards.
In both instances, you’re forging stronger communication skills. Refining your ability to speak to a crowd or write to targeted audiences is fundamental in any job. No matter what your eventual career, you’ll flourish when you can foster and build relationship
And last, attend events whenever you can. You may not be the speaker, and your organization may not even be a sponsor, but attending events for nonprofits is a way to build connections in unique ways. Several businesses and corporate leaders may be in attendance, allowing you to rub shoulders with individuals you may get a chance to any other way.
Provide Clarity on Your Next Steps
Now saying nonprofits build transferable skills sounds nice, but what exactly can these skills transfer into? A worthwhile question. Here are a few takeaways from a recent HBR article.
If you work for a nonprofit that backs schools in low-income neighborhoods, you will be building relationships with students, parents, teachers, and school administration. Most likely you will conduct surveys and interviews to improve conditions and implement new and innovative programs. These skills translate well into:
- Field officers
If you work for a nonprofit connected with philanthropic organizations or government officials, you will likely gain experience in fundraising, developing dynamic partnerships with board members and stakeholders, and even organizing communications for proposals. These skills could easily be translated into:
- Analyst/Research roles
- Communication specialists
- Campaign manager
Is the nonprofit sector the right career choice for you? Only you can answer that. But if you are at a crossroads in your professional life or about to take your first step, don’t dismiss jobs in this sector prematurely. The combination of strengthening a worthy cause on top of growing your skillset may be just the catalyst you need to find a fulfilling career that serves those around you.
Take a look at our current DC job openings and ask our recruiters about the nonprofit connections to these positions!
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