5 things that advanced my nonprofit career

I wasn’t planning to be a nonprofit professional. When I went to college, I don’t even think I realized that it was a real job, with a real paycheck. (That was, until my loudmouth helped me secure my first nonprofit job.) Nevertheless, I am thrilled to have found my career working in the nonprofit sector and I truly enjoy the career opportunities I have had in the nonprofit sector.

I have been able to advance my career because of the decisions I’ve made along the way in developing my career.  It is because of those decisions that I am in the position I am today in which I have a dream job that I truly enjoy.  And, through my job, I am able to make a measurable impact in addressing an issue important to me.

Here are 5 things I am glad I did to advance my nonprofit career:

  1. Never stopped learning:  I have continued to seek new opportunities to learn about the nonprofit sector.  Yes, it has taken time and money for these learning opportunities, but I have gained much more than I have invested.  I have benefited from learning in the classroom, attending conferences, joining professional organizations and pursuing certifications.  I realize there is always more to learn and I have focused on continuing to expand my knowledge of nonprofit management.
  2. Worked for free:  When I first sought out the opportunity to gain experience in the nonprofit sector, I secured internships with no pay.  Yes, this meant I was working two other jobs to make ends meet (yes, I now conveniently leave telemarketer and waitress off my resume).  But, it was through gaining practical experience in a nonprofit setting that I was able to start to develop skills that would enable me to secure future jobs.  Although I didn’t receive paychecks for my first few nonprofit gigs, I am grateful for the opportunities I had to gain practical experience, which helped me start my career in the nonprofit sector.
  3. Did more:  I have always strived to do more than what was expected of me in my positions.  Through taking on additional responsibilities and volunteering to take on new tasks and roles in organizations, I was able to grow and expand my skill set in each job.  Yes, this meant working longer days, but it was definitely worth it to gain the wonderful experiences I’ve had from going beyond the job description duties.
  4. Knew when it was time to move on:  When you work in a nonprofit organization you care deeply about, it is very hard to leave your position.  But, it has been important for me to know when I have fulfilled my role in an organization and recognized it was time to move on to the next challenge.  Although it has been hard to step away from some amazing positions, from doing so I have been able to grow into new roles and move my career forward.
  5. Networked: It is through networking that I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing individuals and continue to grow professionally.  Through networking I have been able to connect with individuals who support the missions of nonprofits I have worked with, who have connected me with great resources for learning and professional development, and who have led me to new career opportunities.  I am grateful for the support I have received from individuals I have connected with through networking.

These were 5 things that helped me advance my career.  Although these may not be the exact things you would do to advance your career, I encourage you to think of what you could do to help advance your career and make a conscious effort to move those items forward.  Trust me, you’ll be thrilled with the result.

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
This entry was posted in Career, Human Resources, Young Professional and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 5 things that advanced my nonprofit career

  1. Thank you for sharing your tips! I am delight to have a job the nonprofit sector. I love the field, the networking and the people who are dedicated to advancing a nonprofit’s mission and vision.

  2. Sarah,

    I especially like the “Did More” tip. I once had a boss who told me I should manage my managers such that I would have nothing left to do but golf all day if I wanted! While that is an extreme way to make a point, part of my success in moving up the food chain was/is to adopt that same philosophy – if I take care of all my bosses problems and activities they are free to focus on what they choose to make a priority – they are appreciative and I learn a lot more than I otherwise would have to boot!


  3. Pingback: Everyone Starts Somewhere | Sarah W Mackey

  4. Pingback: Work for Free | Sarah W Mackey

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