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I'm a caring and helpful female who has a desire for a career in a non profit company. What suggestions would you have for me to guide me in my schooling?

I'm asking this question because I want to help homeless people and volunteer for people that are in need. I want to help kids with cancer and help them find a way to smile. When I am older I want to make a difference for people that are in need. volunteering nonprofits non-profit

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Kate’s Answer

Hi Emely,


I recommend you study what you're most interested in and most enjoy learning. There are people working at nonprofits who studied all sorts of areas - I even have a coworker (working with me in the fundraising department) who studied chemistry! Your knowledge of a specific area you care about can help you find a nonprofit job that's related to that.


While you're in school, I'd suggest you try to get an internship with a nonprofit. Even one solid internship or long-term volunteer position can help you get a nonprofit job later, because it shows you are interested in the nonprofit sector.


Also, nonprofits have many different kinds of jobs - fundraising, marketing/communications, accounting, program management, administrative, volunteer management, HR. As you continue to take classes, volunteer, and meet people who work at nonprofits, think about what type of job you are interested in doing, as well as what type of missions you want to support.


Finally, I suggest you study and volunteer in whatever areas you feel passionate about, not just those that you think will most help your career. Many of my friends studied areas that didn't seem likely to lead to lucrative jobs, and they are now employed in jobs they love. If it turns out that you really want to do a job that isn't quite what you're picturing at a nonprofit, you should go for it. You can always career change later, or bring your skills as a doctor, lawyer, educator, etc. to a relevant nonprofit. :)


Good luck!


Kate

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Meghan’s Answer

Engage in local community nonprofits, even just once a month. You can volunteer to serve on an event planning committee for one of their key fundraisers, or do direct program volunteering (e.g. serving food at a homeless shelter). Taking sociology and psychology courses is very helpful, but also business and entrepreneurship courses.

Meghan recommends the following next steps:

Create a list of nonprofits you are interested in volunteering for/learning more about at both a local and national/international level.
Use LinkedIn or other networking tools (guidance counselors, etc.) to find nonprofit professionals in your area that you could set up an informational phone call with to learn more about what they do.
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Anne-Marie’s Answer

Hi Emely,


Great question! I want to offer a few thoughts from my experience as a young person just breaking into the non-profit sector. I agree that you should study what interests you most, but you might still struggle to find work in the non-profit sector with just a bachelor's degree, particularly if you don't have a lot of employer connections or family members who can guide you on professional skills (writing cover letters and resumes, marketing your skills). I've learned that these skills are crucial, but this information, which can feel like "insider scoop", doesn't reach everyone equally (often based on race, class background, etc.). This was my experience coming from a working-class/low-income background. Outside of your education, it is wise to be strategic, so that you can market yourself as a strong candidate when you are looking for work, and it's never too early to start thinking about this.


You might consider looking into professional development programs for students or young people (I participated in a year long program like this after college and it changed my life!!) that help you gain real job experience, offer options to network, and help you practice your resume, cover letter skills, salary negotiation, and marketing yourself. It can feel weird, but you'll need to practice talking about your achievements and taking credit for your work. I definitely also recommend getting professional experience through internships and volunteering--anything that will help you learn about succeeding in a workplace and help you make connections with employers.


I would also recommend looking up a few position descriptions that look interesting to you from entry level to higher management. Look to the bottom where the education and skills required are listed. You certainly don't need to check all the boxes here because people are hired who can explain why their experiences/skills are different but transferrable, but it will give you a guide of what skills/education are generally requested for positions that interest you. This would be particularly helpful if you are interested in a field that might take a more clinical approach, such as social work or direct case management. You can find examples on many online resources such as idealist.org.


I hope this helps! Wishing all the best for you!

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Kate’s Answer

Hi there! I would recommend pursuing whatever major you're most excited about, and go from there - because there is no right answer to this question (which I think is awesome)! Like many in the nonprofit sector, I had a winding path that led me to my work. For me, I studied neuroscience in college (after changing my major several times!), because I always had a deep desire to understand human behavior and had a passion for science. That brought me to working in the nonprofit sector in leadership development, where I use the fundamentals of neuroscience to guide how I think about leadership development.


My core advice is to study what you're passionate about, find lots of volunteer opportunities to take on, and expose yourself to as many different issue areas as possible - over time, you'll begin to find connections between them, and that will help guide you on your path in the nonprofit sector!

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