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Transition Into the Non-Profit Sector


Combining Advanced Skills and Knowledge with Personal Passion and Ideals

By University Alliance
Transitioning into the Non-Profit Job Sector

Career changers, students and baby boomers looking for new professional opportunities should consider the non-profit sector, which has many public administration jobs. Non-profits represent a wide variety of causes and promote ideals that are important for large groups of people. For professionals looking to work in a job that is in line with personal passions, transitioning to the world of non-profits can be both liberating and fulfilling.

According to the Library of Congress website, “Nonprofit organizations have become a critical part of American culture. Not only is the nonprofit sector one of the ‘fastest-growing part[s] of the U.S. economy,’ but also, as a recent study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Public Policy has shown, nonprofit workers make up approximately 10.2% of the total U.S. workforce.” This means a wide variety of opportunities for professionals looking for a change in their workplace setting. For mid-level and advanced professionals, the non-profit job market offers a unique chance to apply seasoned leadership skills in a work environment attuned to personal values and interests.

When transitioning from other work settings to a non-profit opportunity, it is important to assess the skills and strengths an individual brings to the table. Once a professional determines the cause and skills that he or she wants to concentrate on, they should then build a résumé that will attract offers.

For professionals who need time to narrow down an area of interest or a particular skill set, volunteering is a great idea. Whether the goal of the volunteer work is to get a feel for the culture of a particular organization or to simply build additional skills, most non-profits welcome participation from interested individuals. This can be an important strategy for professionals seeking to transfer from other jobs.

In addition to volunteering at a specific non-profit, local chapters of professional organizations geared toward non-profit leadership development can provide excellent career networking opportunities. For professionals with a concentration in a specific field and who wish to develop more concentrated leadership skills, a Masters degree of Public Administration (MPA) or other closely related area can help create an attractive leadership résumé.

Online MPA degree courses or other leadership courses can add a fresh perspective and can complement previous leadership development training. In addition to securing best-practice training, online courses provide the flexibility needed to remain employed in one area while training for a different career path.

In addition to applying previous knowledge from a private or public company to a new opportunity in a non-profit, professionals will also need to be sure they draw attention to the soft skills that may tip the scales in their direction. Work in non-profits often involves representing the organization in a variety of community gatherings. Relating easily with others, being able to communicate effectively and working well in a close team setting are among the soft skills needed for career longevity in a non-profit job.

Certain advanced degrees like an MPA provide a strong foundation with which to make a successful transition. Degrees that allow for development of a specialty area such as policy, governance or finance can help a professional build a more comprehensive set of leadership skills while seeking employment in the non-profit sector.

Working for a non-profit is an effective way to combine seasoned job skills with one’s own personal passions and ideals. Devising a strategy for the switch to a non-profit may include a variety of factors such as joining new professional organizations and/or enrolling in online courses that can enhance current abilities.

With the growth in the non-profit sector comes the need for an increased number of leaders to guide these organizations. Online learning can be part of an effective leadership development strategy that can lead to increased job market opportunities. For professionals looking to transition from a for-profit company to one of the 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States, online learning, volunteer opportunities and career mentoring can all play an important role in securing the perfect opportunity.

Category: Public Administration