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How to Get a Nonprofit Job with your Corporate Experience

How to Get a Nonprofit Job with your Corporate ExperienceSo you want to go from selling something to serving the greater good in a nonprofit career. How does your corporate experience translate to a nonprofit job?

Some occupations require no translation: administrative assistant, accountant, human relations manager. Others may seem less obviously transferable, like sales, marketing or business development skills. How are your skills relevant in the nonprofit sector?

Example: sales and business development jobs in nonprofits.

Just now I did a search for jobs with the keyword “sales” on nonprofit job board Idealist.org, specifying “San Francisco Bay Area” as the location. I found 11 jobs with “Sales” in the title, along with four “Business Development” titles. Beyond sales, consider fund development, which nonprofit folks generally just call “development.” Sales professionals are well suited to roles in this field. A development department will typically be involved in fundraising events and campaigns, memberships, prospect research, donor relations, and special programs such as a major gifts campaign, a capital campaign or a planned giving program.

People who can cultivate relationships and ask for money are in high demand in the nonprofit world. Your skills in selling the features of a product or service can definitely be transferred to selling the urgency and humanitarian value of a nonprofit’s services.

Marketing job opportunities are common in nonprofits, often with the word “Marketing” in the title.

You might think marketing and nonprofit don’t go together. Think again! A search like the one above turned up dozens of local openings, such as Digital Marketing Officer, Director of Marketing and Communications, and  Marketing Coordinator.

What about titles in human resources, engineering, IT, materials management, and so on?

In some cases they’re the same, but sometimes different. Get ready to “speak the language” of nonprofit: take a look at this handy list of nonprofit job titles in various categories.

Steps to take for a successful corporate-to-nonprofit transition:

  • Research the possibilities by setting up advanced searches on Idealist, Indeed, LinkedIn and/or LinkUp.com. Read lots of job postings, but don’t spend a lot of time applying to them just yet. Decide on a career path and make a list of the job titles common to that area.
  • Create a nonprofit resume. Translate your corporate experience into the kind of language you’re seeing in the postings so nonprofit human resources departments can easily see the transferability of your skills.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. This can be tricky if your job search is in stealth mode, but it is possible to get plenty of the right keywords and selling points into that profile without making your boss suspicious.
  • Prove your commitment to the nonprofit path and gain nonprofit experience through volunteering (preferably skills-based volunteering).
  • Improve your skills and make helpful contacts by taking nonprofit-related trainings and joining nonprofit professional associations. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, these include the Foundation Center and Development Executives Roundtable. Other communities have their own resources for current and “would-be” nonprofit professionals.
  • Network, do informational interviews, and build connections to increase your likelihood of being referred for a position. Something like three quarters of all jobs are filled via networking rather than applying “cold” online, and that majority grows when you’re making a big transition, like a move from corporate to nonprofit.
  • Read my post, 5 Steps to a Successful Career Change for more tips.

Good luck with your transition to a rewarding nonprofit career!

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