5 Things to Consider When Thinking About Careers in Non-Profit Organizations
People join the non-profit sector for many reasons. Sometimes it is intentional; other times it’s just where a career leads after some soul searching. From a human resources perspective, recruiting, retaining and keeping employees engaged is critical to the company’s success; however, it is a deeply personal choice to work at a non-profit and often this choice is more about it being the right “fit” for the employee to provide a full and positive work experience.
For anyone thinking about careers in non-profit organizations, here are a 5 things to consider:
- Personal Motivation: An advantage in the non-profit sector is having a job you enjoy within an organization whose mission can have a personal inspiration or motivation for you. Having a mission that you care about brings purpose and meaning to your work and a rare career branding opportunity. A great question to ask yourself before you start your job search is what type of mission or causes do you care most about?
- Organizational Culture: What type of work culture is the right fit for you? Every non-profit, like any company, has a culture that is unique. Many things effect and shape a culture such as the organization’s size (annual budget and number of staff), location of its office and its leadership. However, don’t forget other factors that can impact your quality of work experience such as do employees mostly work in the office or remotely? Do you prefer a “grassroots” or a more corporate atmosphere? Would you prefer to have the organization’s mission onsite so it feels tangible and provides visual inspiration for your work?
- Build a Variety of Skills: All businesses, non-profit and for-profit alike, want to work efficiently to maximize their available resources and exceed their annual goals. It is very common in the non-profit sector that employees need to be strong multi-tasker “generalists” and contribute to many different types of projects within their position. Not only does this build the employee’s talents and skills for future careers, it increases nonprofit organizational development and the organization’s ability to be nimble and adapt quickly to external changes and needs by having skilled staff who can contribute in many different ways. For job satisfaction, it is smart to evaluate if you will enjoy variety within your job or prefer to specialize.
- Be Apart of a Team: Unlike environments where you are expected to only focus on your job responsibilities, it is common in a non-profit culture to be collaborative within a team or department to discuss and find solutions towards the organization’s performance. Budget goals are transparent, so organizations rely on their teams and nonprofit leadership to work closely together for innovations and solutions. This type of communication creates awareness of each other’s responsibilities and builds motivation to do a job well to ensure the organization achieves its mission in the communities they serve. How does this work style fit with yours?
- Diversity: The non-profit sector does not have a “typical” career path, which enables organizations to attract employees with varied backgrounds. This opportunity allows organizations to have rich human capital resources of skills, talents, diversity of thought and a culture that respects differences. It creates a work culture where it is common to find employees that were former for-profit marketers, Peace Corps members, high school teachers, or social workers working together and sharing the common intrinsic motivation of mission. While this is all positive for the organization, with diversity of employees comes the challenge of working with differences. Self-awareness and inclusiveness are good characteristics to be mindful of as you adapt to the non-profit culture.
Jennifer Kuhn, Director of Human Resources at BBBSMB is in her 15th year working in the non-profit sector.