1. Understand what a non profit is. One of the reasons folks struggle with a nonprofit is that there is little understanding of what a nonprofit is. The sizes and types of nonprofits range from your local soup kitchen to a major university. Some non profits do direct service, others focus on advocacy, and some do a combination of things. Some give money, others give guidance. I love this diversity as it means the non profit sector is large enough to encompass a wide range of skills and interests. It is simply up to you to figure out where you fit in. To that end…
2. Understand what you want to do. The more specific you are about what you want to do the easier it is for you to search and to have others search with you. My favorite way to gain clarity on what kind of work I would enjoy is the Career Tracks Activity by the Office of Career Services at NYU Wagner. In this activity you collect at least 50 job descriptions that appeal to you and build career tracks based on patterns that emerge from those descriptions. I love this activity because it starts from a place of what is available, it exposes you to different opportunities, and it helps you figure out what your next steps are. Pay attention to what you already are a fit for and craft your resume and cover letter for those positions and organizations.
3. Start with who you know. Once you get a sense of what you would like to do and how you’re cut out for that work, let people know you are looking for a non profit gig. Because the sector is so big, you’d be surprised how many people work for non profits or have people in their lives who do. Start with your immediate network: family, friends, professors, and fellow alumni. I recommend connecting with people individually, as opposed to mass emails, as I have found folks are much more likely to respond. Alison Green over at Ask A Manager has some great advice on how to effectively let your network know you are looking for work. (Also, her blog is a must-read for job seekers at all levels if you want to know what your hiring manager is thinking.)
4. Reach out to someone new. Even if you are looking for work right now, you should still build your network and be strategic about your career moves. Remember all those jobs you found in the Career Tracks Activity? Look up folks in the positions and organizations you admire and ask for an informational interview. While an informational interview isn’t the time to ask for a job, it is a good way to learn more about career paths and opportunities. You can also leverage social media to connect with people doing work you’re interested in and stay on top of opportunities.
5. Hop online. Well known places to search for non profit jobs online are idealist.org, cgcareers.org, and opportunityknocks.org. In addition to job listings these websites provide a variety of career development and job seeker resources including books, interviews with leaders, hiring trends and more. You should also look into online communities and networks which can provide a great deal of support during the job hunt including information about job opportunities, events, and important trends in your field. You can find networks based on your profession (fundraising, social work, etc) or cause (hunger, arts, education, etc). Here are a few non profit related networks and associations to get you started:
- Young Nonprofit Professionals Network
- Americans for the Arts (and their Emerging Leaders program with sites around the country)
- Nonprofit Technology Network
- Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy
- Economic Analysis and Research Network
- Feminist Majority Foundation
- National Parks Conservation Association
- Grow Food
- National Organizers Alliance
- National Fair Housing Advocates
Where else can you find non profit jobs?
This is the second post in a series I am having where I address five common questions about careers in the non profit sector. Read the introduction here and the first post about non profit salaries. And be sure to subscribe to my blog so you never miss a post!