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Millennials Heart Nonprofits

According to a recent article in the New York Times, millennials are seeking employment in the nonprofit sector more than ever before. Applications for AmeriCorps and Teach For America are reaching unprecedented highs. Recent college graduates who may have previously gravitated big corporate jobs are opting in to the social sector instead.

If you or someone you know is a recent graduate looking to break into the nonprofit sector, here are a few tips from the team at Commongood Careers:

Tip #1: Know What’s Out There
Unlike corporations that may plan well ahead of their hiring needs and have the resources to recruit on campus, nonprofits recruit when staffing needs arise. Breaking into the nonprofit sector, you most likely will not have the luxury of setting up on-campus interviews or landing that dream job without stepping foot off campus. You’ll need to be proactive to find what opportunities are out there.

Begin by putting those research skills to work!  Find the organizations that inspire you. A great launch pad is idealist.org, a web site with information about over 75,000 nonprofits.  Also, Guidestar provides more in-depth organizational information, such as budgets, staff, and funders. Finally, familiarize yourself with the issues impacting the sector; publications like Stanford Social Innovation Review, Nonprofit Times, Philanthropy News Digest, and Fast Company’s Social Capitalist Award offer a window into what’s buzzworthy in the sector.

Based on this research, create a target list of 5-10 organizations that interest you.  Scour their web sites and find the job descriptions for their entry-level positions.  This way, you can determine exactly what they’re looking for in these positions and tailor your application accordingly. 

Tip #2: Work Your Way Up
Now that you’ve done your homework on yourself and the sector, it’s time to figure out how to put this knowledge. There are a number of nonprofit roles for recent graduates. Some examples of titles that may be good matches include:

  • Program Associate or Coordinator
  • Project Coordinator
  • Special Projects Assistant
  • Executive Assistant
  • Business or Program Analyst

Tip #3: Gain Experience through Service
In addition to entry-level positions, there are a number of other ways to gain tremendous experience in the nonprofit sector, including:

Service Programs – Public service programs offer amazing (and often paid!) opportunities to get your feet wet and gain incredible experience in your field of interest. Some of the nation’s largest service programs include Americorps, Teach For America, CityYear, and AVODAH.

Fellowships – Similar to service programs, fellowships provide recent graduates with the opportunities to gain experience over a relative short amount of time, typically a year or less. Some popular fellowships are offered by Youth Service Oppportunities Program, American Jewish World Service, CORO, and New Sector Alliance.

Volunteering – Volunteering is a tried and true way to get your foot in the door, as well as network with nonprofit staff and hiring managers. From your list of 5-10 target organizations, research what volunteer opportunities they offer and sign up. Also, scour the idealist.org, Hands On Network, and Volunteer Match for interesting fundraising event volunteer opportunities.
Though challenging, making the jump from school to the nonprofit sector may be easier than you think.  A strategy based in defining your interests, researching organizations, and pursuing the right opportunities can result in a promising start to a fulfilling career in the nonprofit sector.  You may not be changing the world tomorrow, but you’ll be on your way to making a big impact, one footprint at a time. 

 

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