In the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to put life on hold and go and volunteer at a youth camp in the hills of Virginia for a month. I signed up with two of my best friends and we set off for a month we would never forget. On that trip, I forged a few new relationships that have turned into life long friends. Since our time at that camp, I’ve had more than a few of my friends from that summer join the non-profit who runs the camp. The professional experience they’ve obtained has been quite different from my own in the start-up and corporate world. The career of a non-profit staff member is difficult at times but the experience is intrinsically rewarding. Even with this value, life often shifts on us. Through this, a few of my friends started looking for a change. So, how does one begin switching careers from nonprofit to for profit? Let’s take a look.
First of all, do yourself and a favor and use the resume template above. This will put you leaps and bounds ahead of the competition as you apply for jobs, especially when switching careers from nonprofit to for profit. You would be surprised how terrible resumes look, even for extremely talented individuals.
Listed here are a couple of principles of design to consider when building your resume.
1) Show progression
Whether it’s within a company or in multiple positions from company to company, your titles and accountability need to show progress over time. The growth factor here points to a movement which is the cornerstone for individuals with purpose. You can either be getting better or getting worse, there is no staying the same
2) Describe accordingly
For each of the descriptors used to outline what was accomplished in a position, be sure to use the appropriate word to describe your action right away. The first word of every accomplishment and description should outline your ownership, leadership, accountability, and resolve. I thought about providing a list of words to use but that won’t help you. A good rule to use would be to as yourself, “If I”m sitting having a conversation with someone, would I say this with pride and integrity?”. Use that as a good litmus test.
3) One page
I know this might seem difficult for the more tenured but it is a requirement. Think about your resume as a business pitch to an investor. How relevant you are to the next opportunity has nothing to do with all the detail you did 20 years ago. Follow step 1 and trust the hiring manager can add dates together. They will understand you have a lot of experience in a lot less time on a single page.
4) Common ground
This is a tough concept. Every industry has a shibboleth. A shibboleth is a kind linguist password used to determine if you are in the inside or not. It’s not hard for me to pick out a resume who thinks they are using the correct language but all I see is a big phony. Finding common ground is going to require some inside help. You need to talk to people in the company or industry to get some help on this. There is no decoder ring on the internet.
5) Tell a story
Your resume is a storyboard. It’s your record of all the amazing things you have done over the years. Don’t treat it like a required document or it will be just as boring as one. Bring your personality to the document and you’ll find it floats right off the page.
Interview preparation can be seen as an oxymoron. There really is no way to truly prepare for any one interview. Knowing the company history and who the CEO is shows you are actually interested in the opportunity but it doesn’t prepare you for the broad scope of questions you will get. Whether it’s a phone interview or in person, these truths hold true. Here are a couple approaches to think through, leading up to the interview.
1) Invest in first impressions
I don’t care who you are, first impressions mean the world. If you walk into your interview looking like the job you had, you will not get the job you want. This is not new advice, but it is sound. It may feel odd spending money you don’t have for a job that isn’t guaranteed but you should look so good you feel slightly uncomfortable about it. Attention to detail is everything, and this is your first opportunity to showcase that.
2) Know your interviewer
You will most likely get a list of interviewers prior to meeting with them. Use LinkedIn from a browser that you are not already logged in to LinkedIn on. That way you can understand who is going to be on the other side of the phone or table without any negative connotation of doing so. When you begin your conversation, don’t directly reference your new knowledge but use it to find common ground. You do not win brownie points for showing that you can look someone up using the Google machine.
3) Use buzz words sparingly, but use them
To quote the great Lily Erickson, “Be cool baby”. Now that you found common ground through the buzzwords and industry lingo, use them sparingly. It’s never more obvious that someone isn’t qualified when they speak back a job description to me, inserting themselves. Now don’t take this the other direction. If you can’t speak their language, you will create distant between you and your interviewer.
4) Read some books
This is the whipped cream, sprinkles, and cherry on top of performing well. Pick out a few books, read them, reference them, name drop the authors, and showcase your literacy. In every job that I’ve landed, I’ve either been asked what I’m reading or name dropped books intermixed into questions I’m being asked. I do not understand the disintegration our society has with reading but use that to your advantage. The best $13 you will spend today is on a book that will change the way you think.
5) Examples for everything
Everything you say is conceptual. You could be completely making everything up and your interviewer will assume you are, unless you convince them with examples that resonate with them. This may be the most difficult thing to prepare but it’s arguably the most important. No one can do this for you. Think diligently through your life, put examples of relevant experiences to your new job on paper, and articulate them ahead of time. You will be glad you have these arrows in your quiver.
Who you know and applying for jobs
Applying for jobs when you are switching careers from nonprofit to for profit is a daunting task. I have been in industry the industry with great experience at competitor companies, applied online for jobs, and never heard a peep. If you are switching careers from nonprofit to for profit, you will find that applying for jobs online is useless. My advice would be to not waste your time with the rejection. This principle to use is very simple. Leverage your network. Give the people who support you, (family, friends, acquaintances, mother in laws) the opportunity to help you. It’s not a favor or a burden, it’s an opportunity for them to feel good and help. Don’t steal that joy from them by not asking for help, direction, or jobs at their company.
Know what you bring to the table
Switching careers from nonprofit to for profit does have it’s upside. You are resourcefulness, you have high-level multitasking ability, and engage in socially conscious decision-making. You have had to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with zero resources on tight deadlines. Your mindset is scrappy and your resolve is high. Make sure you highlight that.
Switching careers from nonprofit to for profit
So feel ready? Well, you never will. You are embarking on a great journey into the unknown. As long as you take your first step, you’ll find the other side. When you do, you’ll look back and reflect at how far you came. I believe in you.