I attended a meeting this week with 5 fellow nonprofit executive directors and a representative from the local university. During our conversation, the university representative asked us what skills we, as executive directors, would recommend students acquire prior to applying for employment at our organizations. We then ended up having a very candid conversation as to why some current job applicants are not making the cut.
If you are looking to get hired in the nonprofit sector, here are some of the top tips and traits recommended during our chat, you’d be surprised how basic some of the desired skills and traits are….
- Public Speaking: Ability to represent the organization to the public; you never know when you will be called upon to share the organization’s mission.
- Diverse skill set: An applicant that is well versed in various aspects of nonprofit management and/or is willing to cross-train within the organization.
- Professional attire: Wear a suit to the interview, and know that a mini skirt with sparkles on it is probably never appropriate work attire.
- Work ethic: Recognize that entry level work is exactly that – an entry point into the organization. For your first job, accept that there might be some grunt work, but commit yourself to work hard. Those who work hard are the ones who get promoted, if you do the bare minimum… don’t expect to move up the career ladder fast.
- Hygiene: Bathe daily and wear clean clothes; yes, this was actually brought up multiple times by multiple executive directors…. doesn’t get more basic than that.
Keep in mind, this was not a formal hiring study, but it does provide some practical advice for those looking for work in the nonprofit sector. So whether you are a young professional entering the nonprofit sector or a baby boomer looking for an encore career in nonprofit management, focus on developing these basic skills and traits!
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