How to Land a Non-Profit Internship or Job

Non-profit work is well attuned to younger workers who are often idealistic and willing to work for less compensation. Non-profit organizations are relatively insensitive to age and appreciative of anyone with a passion for their mission, even without significant corporate experience, especially if they have social media marketing, fundraising or financial skills.

If you have some experience working in the for-profit world, it’s important to understand that, for the most part, the pressure can be just as intense as in the for-profit world. Much of the pressure can come from the relative lack of resources available to non-profits to achieve their goals. Other differences include being managed by a Board of Directors (having many bosses as opposed to one) and management by consensus (volunteers and staff are empowered).

Q. What do I need to be aware of before approaching a non-profit?
A. Saying that you want to “do good,” “give back,” or “make a positive impact,” will not be seen as defining reasons for you to be hired for a job in the non-profit sector. The hiring manager will be interested in the following:
1. Competency—Stress your skills that align with the mission and challenges of the organization, and your ability to multi-task.
2. Strengths in Collaboration and Consensus building. In the non-profit world, it’s often a collegial environment where “We” is more often spoken than “I.” On an interview, you should talk about your personal accomplishments, but you should stress how those accomplishments supported successful team efforts at school or work.
3. Capacity Building and other nomenclature used in non-profit work
4. Compensation (satisfaction with compensation that is often lower than for similar work at a for profit organization)
5. Passion for the Mission of the organization
6. Experience with the non-profit Culture

Q. How do I know which organizations to approach?
A. A good way to get familiar with the mission and culture of a non-profit is to volunteer. Start by researching an organization through volunteermatch.com, guidestar.org and informational interviews.

Q. Are there other qualities that are particularly important to non-profit organizations?
A. Since non-profit employees often wear many hats, do more with less, and have little opportunity for in-house training, they need their employees to be self-sufficient, flexible, versatile and adaptive, quick learners, and have good Microsoft Office skills.

Q. Is that it?
A. No. You will also need to convince the decision makers that you are interested in a non-profit career, preferably with their organization. If you do not have a record of working or volunteering at a non-profit, you will find that hiring managers may be extremely skeptical of your candidacy. The best way to overcome this skepticism is to demonstrate commitment to the mission and values of the organization by offering to start as a volunteer or unpaid intern.

For complete information and guidance on how to land your best for-profit or non-profit job in the least amount of time, check out my 5-star rated book, 3 Steps to Your Best Job Ever! (Second Edition – 2014) on Amazon.com and Kindle.

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Steven Steinfeld

Steven is the owner of Steinfeld Coaching. He is an acclaimed career and job search author, speaker and coach to professionals, including new grads (3 Steps to Your Best Job Ever – 2nd Edition) and international students (3 Steps to Your Job in the USA - Go from F-1 to H-1B). His seminars and workshops are sponsored by more than a dozen colleges and universities, as well as many career services organizations. He also currently provides one-to-one career and job search coaching to the Fast-Trak and Executive MBA students at Northern Illinois University and the international students at InternshipDesk.