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My First Year as a Business Professional in the Nonprofit Sector

“Dear Candidate: Thank you for your interest in our organization.  While your qualifications were impressive, this was a highly competitive process, and we are not able to extend you an offer at this time…”

During the eight months it took to transition from my first career in the private sector to my new role in the nonprofit community, I heard this sentiment more times than I care to remember.  It was difficult, in the face of such rejection, to persevere and continue searching for the right opportunity—but I am so glad I did.  Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me share my background and the experiences that led to my current role as a ProInspire Fellow working at Good360

In the winter of 2011, I made the conscious decision to redirect my career path.  I had been working as a Financial Advisor for nearly three years, helping people make informed, strategic investment decisions to attain their financial goals.  Was I good at it?  Yes.  Did I feel passionate about the work I was doing?  Not really.  I was attending a region-wide business conference when my mentor said:  “you owe it to yourself to love what you’re doing each day.”  While seemingly simple, it provoked a great deal of self-evaluation and was the catalyst that forced me to reevaluate my professional goals.

This conversation ignited my determination to find a career where I could combine both my skills and my passion to work for social good.  Call me an idealist, but if I am going to spend 50+ hours each week at work, it has to provide more than just a paycheck. 

After months of networking, applying and interviewing, I found myself accepted into the ProInspire Fellowship; this year-long program places young leaders from the corporate sector with a nonprofit organization, and then supports their transition through monthly training sessions and individual coaching. ProInspire placed me with Good360, an organization that secures corporate product donations that may otherwise end up in landfills, and distributes them to a network of more than 36,000 charities serving millions of people in need.

The experience of simultaneously changing jobs and switching sectors is both rewarding and challenging.  While preparing to make this transition, I was told that my new position would provide exposure to many roles as I would be wearing multiple hats.  In hindsight, I took that advice too lightly.  In my role within the private sector, I had the luxury of setting my own schedule and determining my daily tasks.  I equated this variability with the challenge of the many hats I would wear in my nonprofit role and assumed my ability to multitask and remain well-organized would make me immune.  I was wrong.

I came to Good360 as the Manager of Business Development & Special Projects.  My primary job functions (hats, if you will) were fundraising through individual marketing campaigns, seeking grants and organizing events.  As promised, this position presented me with multiple roles that I learned to juggle and prioritize with time.  The importance of prioritization was amplified when Good360 decided to hold a fundraising luncheon following a conference in New York City.  This was the first offsite event I was charged with planning, and the complexity of this task was amplified by an extremely shortened timeline. 

With this in mind, I collaborated with the communications team to send out formal invitations.  It was a cross-functional effort, as there is always extra pressure to create successful collateral at a nonprofit organization; with a tight budget to adhere to (if any, at all), it is essential to be effective communicators when opportunities arise.  Working with our finance team, I reached out to potential contributors to secure sponsors to subsidize our costs.  Finally, I investigated local restaurants, catering options, and transportation to deliver guests to and from the event.  The entire luncheon went smoothly—barring a slight miscommunication with the transit company—and my organization deemed it a success.

By spending my first ten months in a cross-functional role, I gained both a holistic view of how Good360 helps those in need and a deeper understanding of how each department—not to mention colleague—works independently and interdependently.  Given the opportunity to repeat my Fellowship year, I would intentionally select a cross-functional role.  I think it is critical to be a pivot player, someone who is willing to think of her position as more than a list of specific responsibilities.  At a nonprofit, where every resource is stretched in order to deliver on mission, I have learned that my job is to do whatever is needed most.  It may not always fit into my job description, but having the reputation of a team player is beneficial.

As I come to the end of my Fellowship year, I am excited to share that Good360 has invited me to stay as the Director of Financial Services.  I am excited and honored to take on this next challenge and feel that after spending nearly one year learning about each department within the organization, I have the benefit of confidently identifying a position where I will thrive long-term. This transition, like all the ones before it, is exciting, albeit challenging, and provides an opportunity to define my role and refine my skills. 

When I look back at the last ten months, I see my time in the nonprofit sector as a fluid experience that has allowed me to gain exposure to opportunities and jobs that would not have occurred in the more traditional, structured roles of the corporate world.  As my time in the nonprofit sector continues, I am sure I will be exposed to an even greater number of transitions, and I am looking forward to the challenge!

About the Author
Gillian Perron is a ProInspire Fellow at Good360, an organization who regularly achieves recognition from Forbes magazine as one of the top 10 most efficient charities. The mission of Good360 is to fulfill the needs of nonprofit organizations through corporate donations of unused and excess products, which drives a “win-win” solution for corporations, nonprofits, and our planet. Prior to joining Good360, Gillian began her career at Edward Jones Investments as a Financial Advisor. While supervising an office, she created clients through networking while recommending and monitoring investments as part of a tailored financial plan according to each client’s individual goals. Gillian is an active Rotarian and enjoys volunteering especially with her sorority’s national philanthropy, the Ronald McDonald House. She is a Vermont native and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Vermont, where she earned a BA in Economics with a minor in French.

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