Friday, October 23, 2009

11 Reasons New Grads Should Pursue Nonprofit Careers

It’s Easy to Know Where to Start Your Job Search
What happens when you ask a current nonprofit professional, how did you find your first nonprofit job? For many, there’s only one answer to that question: Idealist.org. Like many people, I found my very first full-time nonprofit job on their website. And it was the perfect job for me in the beginning of my nonprofit career! Since for-profit job searching can be in many different specific fields, it can be difficult to know the best place to go to look for openings. Idealist, however, provides a one-stop shop for anyone who’s just starting a nonprofit job search.

Your Degree is Transferable to the Nonprofit Sector
No matter what the financial outlook may be, great nonprofits still need great people with education, talent and passion. Bridgespan’s survey respondents reported that 50 to 75 percent of the roles they will need to fill in the near future look to require traditional business skills (finance, general management, marketing/communications, planning, evaluation, operations, technology, and human resources). So whatever field you earned your degree in, a nonprofit organization can probably use your knowledge and skills.

Entry-Level Nonprofit Salaries are Similar to For-Profit Ones
When you’re just starting out in your career, the salaries you will be offered are pretty much the same whether you work in nonprofit, for-profit or even government. A friend of mine graduated with a Bachelor’s in Urban Planning and got offered $32,000 to start at a real estate firm. When I did a short stint as a county court clerk in Virginia right after college, they paid me $29,000. So the numbers game is really quite misleading. Nonprofit careers are just as profitable as any other when you don’t really have any work experience yet.

You’re More Likely to Get a Fancy Job Title
True story: I was offered a job as a Director of Development when I was 22 years old. I couldn’t believe the organization wanted to hire such a young person to be in a leadership position to fundraise for the organization. Then I learned that the nonprofit only had one employee, and I would be the second. I wouldn’t be supervising anyone and I would be the agency’s first Director of Development. This type of situation may not appeal to everyone, but if you play your cards right and stay in a role with that title for at least a year, you can use it to your advantage when negotiating for future jobs. If you can obtain a job as a ‘Director’ in a nonprofit organization, it will look much better on your resume than being a mere ‘Assistant’ at a for-profit company.

You Gain Experience Outside of Your Job Description
Most nonprofits require all employees to work outside of their job descriptions. Office managers may get opportunities to write grant proposals and learn all about fundraising. Receptionists could be called upon to organize a group of volunteers for a rally on Capitol Hill. Joining the staff of a nonprofit organization can be hard work doing several jobs in addition to the one you were hired for, but you quickly become a generalist in many different areas of skill and knowledge. In the long run, this can will help you become a well-rounded professional who can add value to any type of organization.

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