The Benefits & Challenges of Nonprofit Job Seeking
Ok, lets start with the benefits:
(1) They are attractive to work at because they are mission driven and they offer A do-good feeling from working at them.
-At a nonprofit you can work someone you actually care about. And because of this (in the job-seeking stage) they also expect you to offer more than just a resume match.
-To secure a position you will need to demonstrate a personality fit, and your proven passion for their mission.
-Even your outside activities all matter to nonprofit employers.
-Bottom line: nonprofits are looking for people who care about their purpose as much as they do.
-As long as you are active in pursuing your interests this will help you, but in situations where job seekers have been passive about volunteering, or working in for such a purpose this will work against you.
(2) Another Big Benefit Are “The People” In The Sector.
-Nonprofits are progressive, open to change, and care about our communities; where else can you find this?
-In general nonprofit employers truly care about their staff and are normally open to committee decision making.
-This is different than for-profits. For-profit companies are top down only decision makers (traditionally) and normally do not “discuss” their decisions openly before they are made in the same way. This is a great strength but also a great challenge. For this reason expect the hiring process to take a bit longer.
-Though the process is time intensive, it is also offers stability, reliability, and employee buy in. Things that are very important when considering nonprofit leaders are responsible to boards, and many times must justify their decisions. Another benefit of difference in seeking in the nonprofit sector is that it allows us to passionately work in an area without appearing like “fanatical jobseeker.”
-If you approached a for-profit with as much direct experience as many nonprofit jobseekers do, you would probably be labeled a stalker or out for personal gain. Honestly, try telling a Finance Director at Gap Inc., that you watched them speak at a recent event, that you volunteered at their two last gala/events since 2021, met their personal assistant at an art show last week, read the last three publications they had written, that you are very devoted what they do, and really want to work with them. They will be either terrified of you, or feel you are too excited and somewhat desperate.
– Nonprofits are different. You are expected to network in their area of expertise, read their works, meet their employees, and volunteer at their events. In fact that is fastest way to get hired at one.
-Unlike for-profit corporations the information you need to secure a job lead is very available in the nonprofit sector. You always here people say this, getting a job is all about networking. For better or worse, finding the best job for you often comes down to knowing the right people. Maintain relationships from past jobs, internships and volunteer experiences.” Thus, having the correct experience volunteering, and the right approach is a strong way in.
-Remember that in the nonprofit world it is much better publicized when their events are, and how to get involved with an organization.
-Each of these are opportunities to get your foot in the door.
-So, go to their website, and you will find many doorways in.
-Information on how to volunteer, and even the Executive Director’s email is normally located right there.
(1) Finding an entry point. Many job seekers feel they have skills that should qualify them to work at a nonprofit, but many do not. Find ways to gain immediate volunteering and real tangible pro-bono experience on your resume to show your experience and passion for working in the sector. Any level of volunteering can help to build your nonprofit resume. If you don’t know where to start, consider seeking help from the Volunteer Match, or Board Match to gain some valuable nonprofit experience. Joining a nonprofit board can also be a powerful way to gain leadership experience in the sector.
(2) Finding the position you are right for and sticking with it. If you can choose a position/department that you are interested in and stick with it you will always be employed.
– Story: many people always say, “wow I would be great at event planning,” but only stay in the position (if they can get it) for a year to three.
-This is the same for Grant Writers, why are they so in demand? This is because most people do not stay in the area, or only dabble in their creation.
-The key is to find a position/area you are right for and sticking with it.
-This is the key to your professional success and it is also your hardest decision.
-Don’t go from development back to programs.
-Don’t go from operations to marketing.
-These leaps are very hard to pull off.
-Decide what you want to do today and start working in it; if you don’t have enough experience in it to get paid yet; volunteer.
-If you are senior level and are not working in it now, better join a board.
(3) Choosing and sticking to a general area of interest and overall mission or niche within the nonprofit sector.
-Jobseekers everyday are surprised when they are not selected for an opportunity, and may have come in second or third in the interview process.
-I would say 8 out of 10 times it is because another person had prior exact industry experience in the position.
-So, if you are working in education, stay in education, if you are working in a religious organization stay in what you know.
-Of course people also get board and need change. This is the biggest challenge in nonprofit job-seeking: finding an area that you like and sticking to it.
-Remember you are most qualified for working in the area you are currently in, so choose wisely the positions and roads you enter.
(4) In the nonprofit sector we are very diverse in ethnicity, but not always diverse in beliefs within each organization. This can be limiting in some ways.
-Since we are mission driven entities and most nonprofits hire individuals that morally agree with their actions, this can limit our expose to outside beliefs and competitive information.
-Organizations hire individuals aligned with their mission, and normally do not hire disinterested perspectives.
-This is also why having an active board is so important for nonprofits, and also why we hear in the recruiter sector “I don’t want a yes person,” from executive directors.
-This problem does not exist as much for the for-profit sector. Disinterested perspectives and stockholders are actually required for may many larger for-profit corporations.
(5) Understanding the truths behind some of the myths of the nonprofit sector is also a challenge and can prove very helpful. Here a few that are talked about quite a bit:
Myth (1): No one that works in a nonprofit makes any money.
This just not true at all, in fact $670 billion dollars are earned by nonprofit organizations each year and one in ten Americans work in the nonprofit sector. It is a growing sector in the US.
Myth (2) Working for a nonprofit is not a path that is a full career.
In reality, the nonprofit sector provides many people with a lifetime of exciting work. Nonprofits also tend to offer young people more leadership opportunities than other sectors. Plus, incredible leadership experience is gained in the nonprofit sector.
Myth (3) Everyone that works in the nonprofit sector is nice.
Though I must say that the sector is filled with many happy people, it is also filled with difficult personalities, big egos, and office politics as well.
Myth (4) The nonprofit sector is not competitive at all.
Organizations compete with each other all the time for donations, funds, grants, and even on certain issues. Organizations may also have missions that are in direct opposition to one another (such in the case of local environment/local development). You have to be competitive as jobs seeker as well, and make sure to market yourself fully and honestly.
Myth (5) Working for a nonprofit is just like volunteering, this in not true.
Nonprofits rely on volunteers however they are often shielded from the organizational, financial, or issues relating to time working in the field.
Myth (6) Working in the nonprofit sector is easier and less intense as the for-profit sector.
Also not true. If you are looking for a career change to have a better work life balance, some positives do exist in the nonprofit sector. Many of the jobs are not more than 50 hours weekly, but most all are highly demanding jobs in which staff must work hard, and on many different projects or in complex positions as many organizations are stretched for resources. The nonprofit sector is not a escape for candidates seeking easier jobs. In fact, nonprofit teams are so passionate about their work they traditionally work harder for their cause then they ever have before. Afterall, isn’t that why we do mission-driven work? We think so. The impact we can make in the nonprofit sector is extremely fulfilling but it is not for individuals that do not want do real work.