For better or worse, economic realities demand that most of us need to earn a living. Now, you’d have to agree that it would be wonderfully ideal if ours jobs encouraged us to get out of bed every morning, rather than further motivate us to lethargically mash the snooze button.
So what would help us look forward to the new workday? Well, it depends who you ask. Perhaps it would be intellectual stimulation. For others, it be may be interacting with interesting people. Some may cite a purely financial incentives. And the list goes on…
But for one group of Brits – over 600,000 of them – it’s trying to make the world a genuinely better place.
Over the past ten years, the not-for-profit sector has enjoyed a stunning rejuvenation. Operations are smoother. Campaigns are more creative. And more impact is being made. And funding? Well, funding could always be better.
Part of the sector’s development can be attributed to the trend of recruiting staff from the corporate world. The organisation takes advantage of fresh perspectives, while the new staff enjoy tremendous satisfaction utilising their talents and experiences to benefit the broader community. And not just shareholders.
With a background in global marketing, Paul Bernstein, Managing Director of A.R.K (Absolute Return for Kids), has spent the past six years helping transform children’s lives. “I saw an opportunity to bring the business skills that I had from the commercial sector to a charity that wanted to do an enormous amount of good.”
But mere corporate experience is by no means a guarantee that one will find a career in the non-profit sector. A potential candidate still needs to carefully and thoughtfully prepare a pathway.
Four Tips for Making the Successful Switch to the Non-Profit Sector
1. What cause(s) do you feel passionately about?
Of course, you’ll feel far more motivated working for something you truly believe in. As Paul Bernstein observes: “[at this stage], looking for the place that fits your values is really what people should be focused on doing.”
You’re also more likely to be successful in securing a job if you can honestly demonstrate your passion for the orginisation’s cause. When interviewing, Paul makes a point of determining the applicants ideological fit. “We’re really keen to see people’s passion. As a children’s charity it really matters to us that people believe in and want to achieve something really different for children.”
2. Don’t be tempted to try make the quick switch.
You’ll now be far more successful securing an interview by sending in your CV if you know contacts within the organisation. How do you make the connections? Try volunteering for a period of time. Not only will you build up a network, you’ll also get a taste for the organisation’s operations and culture. You can also think about how would you best plug into this organisation, if at all.
Additionally, you may be surprised to find out that working for a non-profit isn’t as enjoyable or meaningful as you thought it would be – and that’s a positive outcome.
3. Refresh your CV.
a. Tone down the corporate-speak. Nonprofits generally enjoy a more down-to-earth culture. As such, any attempt to dazzle your interviewer with corporate jargon will come across as pretentious.
b. Increase your CV’s emphasis on volunteer work and extra-curricular activities. Nonprofits want to see that you’re serious about community involvement. Paul Bernstein explains that extra-curricular activities and community involvement tell him about who the candidates are, what they believe in, and where their passions lie. But of course your professional achievement must still remain your CV’s focus.
c. Demonstrate your flexibility. As anyone in the sector will tell you, it’s often a case of ‘all-hands-on-deck.’ Your CV needs to demonstrate you’re capable of performing duties beyond your immediate speciality, and prove that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty.
4. Understand your limitations as well as your understand your strengths.
Remember, just because you have a background in the corporate world, doesn’t mean that you have all the answers. Your interviewer will be well used to haughty corporate-candidates. Appreciate you’re entering into a new industry of which you may know very little about. Prepare a genuinely modest, focused and succinct answer to the inevitable interview question: ‘why are you interested in making the switch to non-profit?’ And mean it.
While the prospect of utilising ones energies towards sheltering the homeless or campaigning for the ill may sound enticingly rewarding, idealists looking to make the switch must be aware that there are disadvantages. Do you research. And when you speak to people in the industry, ask what the down sides are. For one, they’ll be sure to warn you to be prepared to earn a level below your would-be corporate counterparts.
But Paul Bernstein and others weren’t deterred, believing career satisfaction isn’t governed by one’s pay cheque, but by one’s values. “[People need to think about] what is it that is going to get them out of bed in the morning.”
And for some, what ones gives to the world may be worth far more than what one receives back.