Live Your Passion by Working in the Non-Profit Industry


by Brateil Aghasi

Whether you are a college student newly entering the workforce, a seasoned executive, or have been employed by life as a stay at home mom, the nonprofit industry is a rewarding career path to be explored!

There are over 1.5 million non-profits throughout the nation. Some are household names like United Way or Salvation Army. Others are local, grassroot organizations like WHW (Women Helping Women/Men2Work) in which I am the Associate Director/Vice President. And then there are those like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or the Red Cross which you may not even realize are non-profits.

The non-profit industry is actually the fastest growing job sector over the past decade with a 10 year record in job growth despite 2 major recessions. Non-profits employ 1 in every 10 American workers and is the third largest labor force! And these 13.5 million non-profit professionals are not all case managers or social workers as some may assume. Non-Profits employ a vast amount of skilled workers and business minded managers, human resource professionals, accountants, computer programmers, office administrators, business development executives, marketers, sale associates, and so much more!

Go ahead, don’t hold back. Who wouldn’t love to be in a growing field with various challenging opportunities that make a difference in our community! Here are three simple tips to start doing today to live your passion and break into the non-profit industry:

1)  Target Your Focus with a Plan and Follow up with Research

Narrow your search to a few causes you are passionate about whether it be homelessness, domestic violence, education, etc. and get informed. You can’t say you are passionate about helping the homeless or domestic violence if you are not educated about what these population deal with, statistics, laws, programs, etc. Just like any job search, you need to do your research.

2)  Grassroots Networking- Volunteer, Intern, Join Committees and Boards

Non-Profits like all industries do NOT post job leads in online sites, such as Monster or even Idealist.org which is geared towards non-profits. Non-Profits hire for un-advertised jobs by looking into their own network and asking for referrals. Start volunteering, sign up for an internship, join committees and then eventually boards of directors. Once you do, treat it like a job. Dress professionally, work hard, ask smart questions, take on special projects, and make yourself known to the managers and staff. Do not over commit yourself; sign up for what you can and be very consistent and engaged while you are there. For non-profits, its quality of your work, not the hours spent doing it that will get you noticed.

3)  Professional Networking- Join Associations and Informational Interviews

A more formal way of networking within nonprofits is by joining professional associations.  There are fundraising associations, cause related associations, county wide associations, etc. Pick a few strategic ones, and join them so you can meet people with influence within the industry. Another effective way of getting to know a person of influence is to conduct an informational interview (typically 15-30 minutes.) Dress professionally and bring your resume, but make no mistake you do not ask for a job. You are there because you have a passion for the cause and admire the person and company in which you are meeting. You ask for advice on how to get into the industry, what they’ve learned, any advice they would have for you, etc. You follow up with a thank you note and thank you email within 48 hours. If you play your cards right, this person of influence will remember you when it’s time to hire either for their company or is asked for a referral.

By following these tips, you have just made yourself marketable within the nonprofit industry and its 13.5 million professionals. And as we all know, it’s who you know and not what you know that will get you hired!

About the Author

Brateil Aghasi

As Associate Director for the non-profit organization, WHW, Brateil has lead the organization the past 7 years in its program and volunteer strategy and development, as well as grant and corporate fundraising and engagement, as well social enterprise ventures.  With over 14 years in sales and management, Brateil brings her business sense to the non-profit community in which she has been involved in and had a passion for since the 7th grade when recognized by the county of Orange at such an early age. She can be reached at: brateila@whw.org

WHW empowers low-income individuals to attain economic self-sufficiency through employment success.

About What’s For Work?

The Premier Career Site for Women. Real People. Real Connections. Real Support. — with everything in one place! www.whatsforwork.com

Mission: To redefine how employers acquire talent and women find and preserve their dream jobs using innovative technologies.

Company Overview: What’s For Work? helps women take control of their careers by providing a rich set of tools that develop their knowledge, skills and confidence they need to land and preserve their dream jobs.
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