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What direction should I take, I'm great at comms and work with refugees and LGTBQ seniors

my BA is in International Relations. I have volunteered in 8 refugee camps in Greece with Syrian and Iraqi refugees. This work was perfect because I was in charge of comms state-side and worked on the ground in Greece, accessing needs, mitigating issues, and being surrounded by people and a team.
I stopped volunteering because of money. I am not privileged enough to keep working for free, though I loved the work!

In SF, I volunteered with Openhouse and found I adored working with LGBTQ seniors. There's not really a market for that, besides Openhouse, is there?
I work now as a project assistant for an education nonprofit, but I really have no passion for it. I do well at comms, here, though!

#career #lgbtq #refugees #seniors #communications #publicrelations #ngo


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Kristin’s Answer

Hi there, you might want to consider a career in Human Resources.

Check out the “Great Places to Work List” because a lot of those companies have dedicated teams that would focus nicely on your passions for non-profit work.

There are a lot of opportunities that relate to the Diversity and Inclusion specialty of HR that would translate nicely with your passions. Connect with people in the field to learn about what they do as some might sit behind a computer all day long, some might travel and some might have a mix.

Some roles focus on Social Responsibility and volunteering and have a dedicated focus on that so that might be another career area to explore that aligns with your passions.

There are also designated Communication teams in HR and there are entire teams dedicated to Communication consulting in HR that might align nicely with your skills.

Volunteer as much as you can and build all those experiences so you have relevant skills to add to your resume.
Let me know if I can help you in any way and keep learning and asking questions.

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Betsy’s Answer

Hi Rachael! I commend you for the wonderful volunteer work you have been doing! The great news is that you've had wonderful experiences as a volunteer for various nonprofits. The better news is that you can have a paid communications career with a nonprofit! While many people assume that those who are working for nonprofits are unpaid volunteers, the reality is that there are lots of paying jobs in the nonprofit sector, so you can get paid to me a difference!

Many nonprofits have communications professionals working for them. shortly after I came out of college, I worked in communications for the American Red Cross. There were communicators across the nation and around the world sharing the important work we were doing. While ARC is a large nonprofit, many smaller nonprofits also have communication needs, but because their staff and budgets are smaller, they often wear more than just a "communication" hat. In many small and mid-size nonprofits, communication staff also does development, which often includes fundraising, grant writing, events, donor stewardship and so much more.

Have development experience can also help you advance your paid nonprofit career path, as many Executive Directors or CEOs have some development experience, as it's necessary in those top roles. I really encourage you to look for development or communication positions with organizations you may be passionate about, as you may discover a fulfilling career path. If you loved working with international affairs, there are nonprofits that serve that population and likely have a mission you can get excited about. If you like helping LGBTQ seniors, that's pretty niche, but many LGBTQ organizations have programs that help seniors. Just look at Human Rights Campaign - with an election looming, they have countless people working in the field doing communications every day. They have programs that help LGBTQ people and seniors across the country. Or Lambda Legal often takes cases that help LGBTQ seniors fight in the court system.

I went into paid nonprofit work as volunteer coordinator more than 15 years ago, and then quickly transitioned to a communications role. I then learned that I would need development experience to continue to advance my career, so I gained that. Now I'm Executive Director for a Foundation and I regularly use my communication and development skills to advance our mission.

Having a career in the nonprofit sector doesn't mean we're not paid, it just means when there is profit, it gets reinvested in the organization to advance the mission, rather than paying out to stockholders. I do hope you can find fulfilling, rewarding and meaningful communication work in the nonprofit sector. I also want you to know that a lot of times in the nonprofit sector we end up wearing many, may hats and may not find that perfect job right out of the gate, but hopefully you will find the work rewarding and enjoyable.

Betsy recommends the following next steps:

Research nonprofits that have a mission you can get behind - there are so many nonprofits, check out lots of them!
Look at job openings at nonprofits you are interested in working for - also, check LinkedIn and other philanthropic/nonprofit job listing sites in your area
Apply to communication related jobs at nonprofits - use your volunteer experience as real nonprofit experience. Just because you weren't paid doesn't make that experience any less valuable to a future employer. Try to quantify what you did in those positions
Look at future steps you can take to create a meaningful paid career in the nonprofit sector

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Karen’s Answer

Follow your passion. Leverage your communications expertise and think outside the box. Find an organization that will enable you to provide comms support for the LBGTQ community. Don’t be afraid to strike out on your own and start your own consulting company that offers the same services.

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Sam’s Answer

First of all, hats off to you! Have you considered doing comms for a mission-driven company or nonprofit? Where larger corporations likely have more defined roles, lots of nonprofits and smaller mission-driven companies likely have needs for people who wear many hats—like comms/pr/marketing positions. They also may have great opportunities for on-the-job training.

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Jabari’s Answer

Don't feel like you have to make a choice between that which you are passionate about and that which you are good at. In fact, it sounds like you already know the path forward: comms for a non-profit, serving a population that you care about. Go for it!

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