Considerations for a Career in the Nonprofit Sector
For this generation of cause activists and volunteers desiring to make a difference from the start, the appeal of a charity career has never been stronger. Idealistic, ambitious young graduates are rejecting the idea that a mere paycheck is reward enough for their life hours spent at work.
Where other than the nonprofit sector, can an individual – just starting out – impact social reform, change the world and be a force for good while working for a living?
Many entering the job market today, see the opportunities offered by the nonprofit sector as more exciting and rewarding compared to their for-profit counterparts. Graduates longing for meaningful work, choose charity careers based on the social value of nonprofits, who count mission as central to their function.
Planning a charity career is not only ethically appealing but is becoming a realistic prospect as an occupation choice. Industry insiders believe nonprofits are offering better opportunities to fast-track career development since the recession has forced the sector to become more businesslike in its approach.
1. Charity as a career choice
Today’s job seekers seem to be sincerely energized by the idea of helping others while new graduates face less pressure for high wages – typically not having a mortgage or children when starting out.
But for Millennials, the challenging, economic circumstances that arose as a result of the last recession has left them with the unenviable distinction of having more debt from student loans, more poverty, unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than either Gen-Xers or Boomers.
It’s generally recognized that charities often pay less but, as in any sector, earnings depend on your role, the size organization you work for and your capabilities. No two nonprofits are alike and you’ll need to do your due diligence before making a decision as to the kind of organization that makes it onto your charity career shortlist.
The charity sector has the (somewhat) unfair reputation for being underfunded, under developed and under staffed but all that is changing. Nonprofit watchdogs and third-sector professionals agree that to be truly effective, many nonprofits need to divert some focus to upgrading equipment and training staff. When choosing a charity career, it’s up to the candidate to be proactive, making sure they get fair pay for their work.
2. What criteria makes a good employer?
Everyone wants to do something everyday that they enjoy and if that involves their job, so much the better. Enjoying the type of work you perform and making progress in your given role is important as long as you know you’re being paid fairly for the work you do.
If the work is gratifying and makes the world a better place, add in the feel-good factor of personal fulfillment. Even beyond pay and benefits, Millennials want their passions and talents acknowledged by an organization whose mission and purpose they can believe in.
- Is there a friendly and productive environment with dynamic colleagues?
- Is there a culture of appreciating employees?
- Will you be valued for your input and have the necessary resources available to get the work done?
Great organizations tend to spread their focus to management, compensation, benefits and cultivating a corporate culture. Impressive health and retirement benefits aren’t within the reach of every nonprofit but not all important perks are costly.
Providing flex time for staff or instituting an acknowledgement strategy that marks hiring anniversaries and birthdays aren’t pricey tactics but clearly signal that the employee is a valued member of the team.
Having confidence in the charity you work for goes a long way to creating job satisfaction. Is the leadership of this organization solid? Are there channels in place for employees with work-related issues?
3. The unseen perks of nonprofit work
Some crafty nonprofits, working with a tight budget, rely on creative solutions for staff benefits and perks, but two of the hidden perks in the charity industry usually go unseen: Reduced competition and the opportunity to rise through the ranks add to the appeal of nonprofit work.
There is significantly less competition in a charity career than encountered in the current job climate. And as nonprofits become more competitive when recruiting staff, a motivated employee with get-up-and-go can progress up the ladder with fewer challengers snapping at their heels.
While entry-level jobs within the sector can mean entry-level pay, a dedicated newbie can leverage their position to fast-track career progression. And unlike for-profit positions, the nonprofit professional usually experiences greater freedom within their role.
If you work hard and are willing to learn new skills, a charity career offers a chance to develop your talents while enjoying the freedom to be creative with ideas and solutions to problems
For everyone involved in the sector, it all comes down to helping people and supporting good causes. Young nonprofit professionals consistently say that their best rewards are seeing the results of the mission at work and the impact on those helped.
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>> Read more articles by Cari Mostert
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