Want to dedicate your life to helping others? Good intentions will take you a long way, but to be a successful social entrepreneur or to run a nonprofit that has a positive impact on its community, you’ll need to build up your skills and experiences in the nonprofit sector. Let’s look at some of the ways you can build up your nonprofit resume.
Education and Experience
Of course, one of the best ways to bolster your resume for working in the social sector is to pursue a higher degree in a field that’s useful for nonprofit administrators. For example, undertaking a master’s degree in a field related to nonprofit administration, human services or public policy clearly shows your dedication to this type of work. However, because of the challenges of running many nonprofits and even for-profit social programs, a degree is not the only thing that your employers will be looking for. Match up your degree with plenty of on-the-ground experience so that you’ll be as useful as possible when you’re working for the nonprofit of your choice.
For example, one way to get hands-on experience that is sure to impress a nonprofit employer is by showing them that you have stepped up and have volunteered your time for a cause that you are passionate about. Though not all nonprofits rely on volunteers to fulfill their missions, all hiring staff at a nonprofit will understand that your volunteer experience speaks toward not only the skills and abilities that you bring with you but to the level of dedication and commitment you have to making your community a better place. At the end of the day, the single fact that you care will do more to showing that you are a good fit for the position than anything else that you demonstrate on your resume.
It helps, of course, if the volunteer experience that you include on your resume is in some way related to the missions of the nonprofits at which you apply. However, even if the mission is not related, don’t hesitate to list your volunteerism. If your volunteer work is not related, write your resume in such a way that you reflect the passion, time and innovation that you brought to your role as a volunteer and the skills that you learned there.
For example, if you were volunteering with animals and now you want to work at a foundation that helps rural doctors find funding, outwardly you won’t see too many comparisons to draw between the two. However, there are many aspects of your experience that will serve to illustrate what you gained from your time volunteering—for example, any organizational or leadership roles that you had.
But what if you’re coming into the nonprofit sector with only for-profit experience? Should you be worried about including it on your resume? Well, that depends on you, and your reasons for switching employment to an organization that has a mission to help the community rather than a mission to profit from the community. But, in general, experience working at any business—especially if the skills you used at that job are related to what you’ll be doing at the nonprofit—will help you get hired.
However, if you have the luxury of so much working experience that you are considering leaving out some nonessential positions and submitting a skills-based resume rather than a chronologically based resume, try to highlight your relevant experience. In your case, relevant experience may mean volunteering positions, or it might mean a for-profit job that you held a few years ago rather than the one you just left.
One of the most useful things you can demonstrate on a resume, nonprofit employers say, is that you are versatile. In the nonprofit sector, especially when working in a smaller nonprofit or on a new project that may have fewer employees, those workers may have to wear many hats. So, on your resume, try to feature the skills and positions where you had to adapt to change or work outside your comfort zone.
For example, if you’ve ever experienced time pressure on a project, or had to teach yourself the ropes when your company was short-staffed, try to have that information come through on your resume.
A final word of advice: It never hurts to have a second pair of eyes look over your resume before you submit it to a potential employer. If you know someone who is already working in the nonprofit sector, see if they would let you buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for taking a look at your credentials and giving you further advice on how to represent yourself on paper.