I often have people ask me about how I first got involved in the nonprofit sector. The truth is that I went to college without a clue of what career I’d pursue, so naturally I chose a liberal arts school. I attended Hanover College in southern Indiana, and no – there wasn’t a major in nonprofit management that led me to my first job. It was my loud mouth (along with my activities, education and relationships) that helped me land my first nonprofit job.
During my freshman year, I became involved in College Mentors For Kids (CMFK), a nonprofit organization that matched college students with grade school students for weekly one on one mentoring relationships on campus. I loved it – it was so great to spend a few hours each week with my little buddy. My involvement in the organization grew, and resulted in me serving as president of our campus CMFK chapter. Through my participation and leadership with CMFK, it was the first time I realized that the nonprofit sector was a possible career path.
As an economics major at Hanover College, many of my classmates were preparing for successful (and financially lucrative) careers in banking, financial markets and public sector jobs with the Department of Labor. But, with my growing interest in the nonprofit sector, my advisor supported me as I secured an internship at the United Way of Central Illinois and started to focus my research on the economics of charitable giving. A bit out of the norm for an economics major, but hey – supply and demand principles can be applied to anything, right?
During my senior year, all was on track…. I had taken a leadership role in CMFK, gained valuable experience through an internship at a nonprofit organization and was able to tailor my econometric research towards the nonprofit sector. The pieces of the puzzle were all there… but, I was well aware I needed to turn it into a job with a paycheck after graduation.
One day during my senior year, while chatting it up with a professor in the faculty office building, he was asking me what I was planning to do after graduation. I told him I was going to find the perfect job, I just wasn’t sure yet where or when or what it would be, but I knew it would be perfect. This was followed by some laughs, and for those who know me… my laughs can get a bit loud.
Then, the CMFK faculty advisor came down the stairs and found us chatting in the hallway. She said she thought she had heard me talking. Since she was an entire floor away, I think she meant to say that she heard my big loud mouth and it was disturbing the quiet faculty office building! Anyways, she told me that she found the perfect job for me – she read about it in the paper over the weekend, and knew it would be a perfect for me.
I then proceed to look into it, and ended up applying for the Director of Development position at Girls Incorporated of Jefferson County. I did get the job and started working part time during my final semester of school. After graduation, I assumed the position full time and was so honored to have the opportunity to work there.
So, yes, my loud mouth did help me secure my first job in the nonprofit sector… as after hearing my loud mouth talk about my dreams of a “perfect job,” someone on an entirely separate floor of the building came down the stairs with a job posting for me that ended up being my perfect first job.
But, there was more to securing my first job in the nonprofit sector than just my loud mouth. The activities I participated in during college developed my interest in the nonprofit sector and allowed me to gain experience at nonprofit organizations. My education gave me a foundation of knowledge and the opportunity to research best practices in the nonprofit sector. And most importantly, through networking and building relationships with others around me, they were able to support me as I prepared to enter the nonprofit sector.
If you are on the hunt for your perfect job in the nonprofit sector, I urge you to focus on volunteering for activities in the nonprofit sector, furthering your education to deepen your knowledge about the nonprofit sector and building relationships with those around you to expand your network of supporters and advocates.
Your perfect nonprofit job is out there, too!