Here are five ways to prepare for nonprofit work:
1. Check out websites. Encore.org, Idealist.org, Commongood Careers, www.cgcareers.org, www.Bridgestar.org, and www.philanthropy.org are excellent sources for people with broad skill sets who are looking to shift into the nonprofit world. Opportunities range from volunteer positions to internships to board slots.
2. Volunteer or intern. Before you accept a position, survey your options. Check out different organizations to find one that makes the best use of your skills and appeals to your interests. "Just because you're not getting paid doesn't mean that your time isn't valuable," says Beverly Jones, president of Clearways Consulting in Washington. "Some retiree volunteers find that they get stuck with the boring, time-consuming jobs because their paid colleagues assume that they don't have anything better to do. Be clear about how much time you are willing to devote to the cause, and don't be afraid to negotiate about what you are willing to do."
3. Expect some bumps in the road. Chances are you won't feel immediately at home. You're no longer the one with experience. The transition inevitably involves some false starts and may take a period of months or years. "There's a difference between passion for a particular issue and working in an organization focused on those issues," Freedman says. "There is a fitful, choppy process."
4. Be realistic about a salary. If it's continued income you're seeking, look at resources such as www.salary.com that will give you a sense of the pay in the field you're considering. Nonprofit salaries tend to be 20 to 50 percent lower than in the for-profit world.
5. Get training. As you prepare for your next stage, think about opportunities for education, skills training, and building new relationships, Jones advises. Credentials help in the nonprofit world, and there's a lot to learn.