7 Tips for Veterans to Land a Nonprofit Job

By Sarah Landrum

If you’re considering a position in a nonprofit, you may be onto a good thing. Throughout 2016, the nonprofit sector showed promising growth – even more than the corporate sector.

In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that the nonprofit sector continued to grow, even throughout the recession. While corporate jobs took a nosedive, nonprofits grew with almost no impediment. The sector may be smaller, but there is also less competition – another bonus for job seekers.

If the nonprofit sector appeals to you, check out these tips to get you started in your job hunt.

  1. Try Volunteering

It can be hard to figure out exactly what kind of job you want to do. If you have the option to volunteer for a company, you’ll be able to tell if this is a job you want or not. As a volunteer, you won’t be under any kind of obligation to continue work if you decide it isn’t the path for you.

Volunteer work can also be a foot in the door. If you don’t have experience in the job you’re interested in, nonprofits are always happy to get volunteers. Working with people who get paid can be what lands you the job. You’ll get the experience you need, and get some major networking time. You might even meet the people who do interviews, so they’ll know you before you even start applying.

  1. Use Your Background

As a recent or soon-to-be veteran, you probably have a lot of experience with initiative. Take advantage of what the military taught you. All those life skills will be very valuable in any job, but especially so in nonprofits. These are often much smaller companies, where people don’t have much time to guide you through the steps. Military skills like leadership, decision-making and keeping cool under pressure can be some of your biggest assets, if you frame them that way.

  1. Use Your Network

Just like your military history can help you in this sector, so can your personal and professional networks. Nonprofits are smaller and don’t always have the resources to recruit new employees like corporations. The smaller, closer-knit organizations will often bend over backward to try and help you out if you get into the circle. According to a survey, 91 percent of nonprofits said using friends was one of their primary ways to recruit new employees.

  1. Make Use of Social Media

You can use your social network directly to help you get a job, but you can use it in other ways, too. Social media has become a huge driver when it comes to nonprofit fundraising – this year, #GivingTuesday raised more than $168 million online. That’s just for now, and other sites will continue to grow in popularity as the demographics widen and change. Instagram is already joining the movement, making an impact for the first time with 2.6% of social donations coming from the network. That’s compared to the 2.8% from Twitter and 93% from Facebook.

Showing your knowledge and experience on social media can give you a leg-up over others who aren’t familiar with the networks.

  1. Follow the Money

If you want to work at a nonprofit, there’s a chance it won’t pay as well as a corporation. That’s not always the case, but there are certain positions that pay well, regardless of the industry. Usually any job that involves finances is liable to pay well. In other words, the more complicated the job, the more you’ll get paid.

  1. Say What you Mean

Nonprofits can sometimes be short on resources. One thing almost every nonprofit is short on is time. You can make a great impression very quickly, simply by adhering to some basics tenets.

Be alert and pay attention to what the recruiter is looking for, and then sell yourself with an emphasis on those things. Do a bit of research before the interview, so when you go in you can talk about their donors, their competition and how useful you’ll be in those areas. Send a thank-you card after the interview. Those professional touches will make a huge difference.

  1. Be Helpful

Often, people who work for nonprofits need to be flexible and take on work that may not be part of their job description. Make sure during the interview you emphasize you’re a team player.

Your military experience will have taught you how to work with a team, and how to be a leader instead of just a boss. You can talk about times you had to jump into a brand new role you weren’t expecting, take on challenges you hadn’t always been trained for and foster bonds with the others in your unit. All of these things are important in this sector because nonprofits are like families, and everyone needs to pitch in.

Working at a nonprofit comes with some unique challenges, but you’ve met harder ones head on. This is well within your abilities, and your status as a veteran can only help. If this is the world you want to be in, you won’t regret putting in the work to get there.

About the Author

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks. Coming from a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans find and succeed in a civilian career. Follow Sarah for more advice on career development @SarahLandrum

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