This is a guest post from Roxy Allen.
On the weekends, One Day One Job features jobs at non-profits, a sector with unique challenges that you need to be aware of when applying for jobs. This “third sector” has a different culture, different networks, and different tricks to getting and keeping a job from the for-profit sector. When applying for non-profit jobs, you need to strike a balance between displaying your skills and experience and passion for the work. I have experience with both types of organizations, and here are 5 tips for getting a job in this sector that will help you figure out what to put on your résumé.
1. Volunteer. I volunteered as an English teacher in Ethiopia for 11 months directly out of college. It taught me how to live on a stipend, learn a new language and culture, and deal with intestinal worms and malaria. It showed that I was flexible and worldly. In every interview I went on the hiring manager lit up when I told stories about connecting with little children and eating amazing food because it temporarily relieved her from thinking about how many e-mails have piled up since we began talking and proved that I could play in her sector. You do not have to go half way around the world to accomplish this. Volunteer with the Red Cross, the most well-established and admired non-profit in the world, to start making contacts and gaining experience working with people and understanding the challenges a non-profit faces that is changing people’s lives. A friend who went to my grad school recently looked for a job. She went on 50 different informational interviews and a few real ones. She ended up getting a job at a non-profit that she was volunteering for part-time while she job-searched because she was trying to keep her skills fresh. Volunteer, it helps.
2. Learn project management. Project management is all that non-profit staff do, all day, every day, in different varieties and flavors. You can learn project management by leading a club in school and putting on an event. Then write about how you used systems to organize yourself and others and what a success it was on your résumé.
3. Show how down to earth you are. Non-profits make decisions very slowly so you need to show that you can go with the flow. Never be high-maintenance by asking for various perqs and be patient in the search process. Be flexible and know that at non-profits wearing many different hats can pay off for you. I am a Program Associate (a fancy new title they have for Administrative Aassistants) and I have referred our keynote speaker for our annual HR members meeting, introduced a new website registration system, while carrying out my main duties of supporting senior program staff. The easiest way to show how down to earth you are is to talk about your family, hobbies, and interests outside of work in the interview. It’s not so easy on your résumé because that document is to prove you have the required skills. In the interview your hobbies will show how you develop your passions and leadership skills outside of work and that you’re a normal person. On your résumé, however, it will be good to show as many responsibilities in one job that you’ve carried out before to show how you can multi-task.
4. Exploit your tech skills. I am known as a tech guru at my organization because I can create a Google Site. The bar is very low right now, and the need is extremely high for tech skills in non-profits. Many have not embraced the social web, which is practically designed for non-profits and the social sector. You can get tons of back-pats and job offers if you can successfully deploy a database, CRM, and new website for a tiny non-profit for free. Free work is a great way to get a job that you really want.
5. Grad school helps. My friend who works at the World Bank told me recently that I was smart for already completing a Master’s degree because PhDs are applying for jobs that technically are open to those with a BA and getting them. I know many people say don’t go to grad school, but a lot of my friends and non-profit colleagues got their jobs because they did an internship during grad school with a non-profit. The competition has gotten to the point where job descriptions are now saying grad degrees are a nice to have, meaning if they can get people with grad degrees, they will. If you are certain about the area you want to work in, grad school can help you, so don’t rule it out completely. If you do go, make sure you do an internship to make connections and immediately apply what you’re learning.
This is a guest post by Roxy Allen.
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