With the right information and a planned approach, it is possible for a well-qualified candidate with corporate experience to transition to a job with one of the over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S.
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Marci Alboher is a vice president at Civic Ventures, a non-profit think tank leading the call for encore careers, which they describe as jobs “combining personal fulfillment, social impact, and continued income, enabling people to put their passion to work for the greater good.” An expert on career transitions and workplace trends, she is author of One Person/Multiple Careers. She also coined the term “slasher career” to refer to people who can’t answer the question “What do you do?” with a single word or phrase.
Alboher offers the following suggestions, insights, and resources to help you shift to a non-profit career:
Become a “slasher.” (e.g. sales rep/literacy mentor). This could play out in two ways. Slashing can help you transition from your current field into a non-profit job. If that’s your target, Alboher suggests you hold onto your day job while you dip into the nonprofit world on the side (using the suggestions below). By taking the slash approach, you’ll be able to continue earning a living and simultaneously build skills and relationships to help you transition to the non-profit sector. Keep in mind, you may earn less in a new non-profit job, so your financial plan may include saving some money while you are planning your career change.
On the other hand, you may wish to create a permanent “slash” career, where you have one foot each planted in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds. Either way, follow the advice below and carefully carve out time for each of the sides of your “slash.”
Volunteer in organizations where you have a strong interest and you can create real impact. Don’t just set aside a few days a year to work with Habitat for Humanity, for example. Incorporate high-level volunteer work and make a real effort to be involved in substantive projects that expose you to the field and introduce you to people doing the kind of work you want to do for a living.
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Consult. Take on a consulting project for a nonprofit as a way to showcase your skills. If you choose to work for free, make sure you’re building relationships, knowledge, or something else to help you as you try to find a paying job. Non-profits appreciate and seek employees who are passionate about their missions, so it makes sense to identify issues and organizations you may want to work with for the long term.
Meet people. Leverage your social networks to help. Consider using Branchout (a Facebook application) or SimplyHired.com’s application to help you learn where your Facebook friends work. Add your volunteer interests and work experience to LinkedIn via the “add sections” tab when you update your profile. Search on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ for groups and people either working for or actively involved in non-profits that interest you.
Get involved in your target sector. Go to conferences or panel discussions. Look for Twitter “chats” about your interest area. Reach out on Facebook and LinkedIn to your friends. Update your Facebook status to let people know when and where you are volunteering. Share information and news about your favorite non-profit organizations and causes via your social media platforms. Subscribe to LinkedIn’s newsfeed on nonprofit news. If you’re a good writer, consider authoring a blog highlighting those interests.
Show up. Once you identify organizations that interest you, go to their events and attend to conferences where you might be able to meet people who work in those organizations.
Dig in. Keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your field. Use social media to identify leaders in the fields that interest you and follow them. In addition to exploring Encore.org, where Alboher works, she suggests the following resources for non-profit career job seekers:
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success . Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.