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5 Things to do Before Switching to the Nonprofit Sector

Two fishbowls next to each other with one fish jumping from one bowl to another.

Many professionals today are discovering their purpose, passion, and potential leading them to rethink their careers. Whether your discovery occurs after a trip abroad, a volunteer experience, a personal challenge, or a propensity towards job-hopping, it’s natural to reconsider your career path and explore what other opportunities are out there. In fact, according to Business Insider, making a few carefully-planned career changes won’t bother most HR managers and recruiters – especially if you had a valid reason why you left your previous job.

Have you been job-hopping in the last five years or feel a sense of emptiness in your current work? If devoting time and energy to a bigger cause is your huge motivation, then transitioning to the nonprofit sector may be a good fit for you. Although there’s no promise of high earnings, sector switchers may experience a different level of job satisfaction, along with a newfound sense of purpose.

If you’ve been thinking of switching to the nonprofit sector, don’t let fear or insecurity get the better of you. But before you turn in your resignation letter, here are five pointers to keep in mind:

#1 Begin Listing Your Prospects

Start researching nonprofit organizations well before you’re ready to make the switch. You want to find organizations with missions in line with your own ethics and interests. Aside from the organizations’ websites and online job listings, you can use social media platforms such as Facebook to look at potential groups you’d love to join. Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a great example of a non-profit organization that uses social media to spread awareness of their cause. Through their Facebook feed, you can learn what they have done so far, where they are based, and even whether they are currently recruiting.

Keep a list of the causes you want to work for and why you are interested in them. Carefully research what organizations serve those causes, find out what their benefits are, and if possible, make connections with people who are already working there. Offer to do volunteer work or an internship to get your feet wet.

#2 Update Your Application Materials

Every job has its benefits. Even when you feel that you’re at a dead end, you’d be surprised at the skills, values, or friendships that you’ve gained through time. Begin compiling what you need before sending out resumes or attending interviews. Polish your resume/CV, build up your portfolio, update your social media profiles, etc. Make sure that everything is up-to-date.

On your resume, align your skills and experience with the needs of the organization in which you want to work. For instance: if you want to become part of MSF and you’re currently a resident physician, stress your areas of specialty, your strength of working in a team (or independently), as well as some volunteer work you may have done in the past (if applicable). For folks who have been HR managers, finance consultants, or marketing supervisors, emphasize your talents in budgeting, creating presentations, and handling different kinds of people.

Non-profits are always looking for individuals who could bring something new to the group. It’s a great time to contribute to the inspiring stories of the sector and join the ranks of other skilled people who bring the work to life.

#3 Get Feedback From the People Who Matter to You

Even after you’ve had your heart set on leaving, you’re likely to develop second thoughts. While it’s perfectly normal, talking to friends and loved ones before finalizing anything can help you work through doubts or assess an issue (positive or negative) that you hadn’t considered before.

If you haven’t been open with your family before, this is a good time to do so. Tell loved ones why you want to switch jobs, and the challenges you expect to encounter in the near future. Not only would they be more open to support your endeavors, you can count on them in case things become too much to bear. After all, working for a cause can sometimes be more demanding than any corporate career.

#4 Maintain Connections

Don’t isolate yourself from your current professional contacts just because you’re planning on switching careers. Continue to hang out with your colleagues after work. Help out at the office. These are the people who helped you become the person you are today – and who knows? Maybe somewhere down the line, you’ll need their help again.

Networking is going to be essential before, during, and after you’re employed at your new organization. Your circle of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues will contribute to your learning, personal development, and can be a source of great support for your future group projects or events.

Expect that working in the nonprofit sector may take a toll on you at some point – even if you love the job. As you’ll likely be tasked to do several duties at once, you may find yourself feeling burned out. Knowing you have kept good relations assures that you’ll have friends to turn to.

#5 Tie Up Loose Ends

Have you submitted your resignation letter? Have you closed any issues with your boss? Good. Then you’re almost ready to begin a new chapter in your professional life. Depending on your location and your company’s regulations, you could be spending a few weeks at the office before your last day. Use this time to complete pending tasks.

Never leave any work unfinished! It can reflect poorly on your professional habits and leave a bad impression on your previous employer. As much as possible, leave a good mark on the people you have worked with. After all, your future boss will still do a background check on you (and you don’t want to hear your past supervisor say that you were a slacker).

Are You Sure You’re Ready?

Whether you’ve been at your current job for months or years, you will have developed a level of comfort with your surroundings. The memories and skills you’ve collected will always stay with you. Looking back, you may have actually loved the job! Unfortunately, we must face the truth if our current roles are no longer helping us achieve our goals in life. People change – and sometimes, our jobs don’t change with us.

Acknowledge that changing careers today is normal and even healthy. You’ll find that although serving a cause may not pay off financially, the feeling of doing good is priceless.

About the Author: Cris Antonio is the Chief Editor of Scoopfed. She’s currently focused on helping healthcare workers find better career opportunities through Locum Tenens. Aside from writing, Cris also enjoys painting, collecting toys, and reading German novels.

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