3 Reasons to Restart Your Career with a Nonprofit

What sounds more appealing: A job where you are primarily focused on the success of the company, or a position where your work will have a direct impact on your community? Choosing a career should never be this simple, but for many professionals considering moving into the nonprofit industry, the possibility of being offered less competitive pay often deters them from making the switch. This is a common concern that Dana Scurlock, Staffing Manager of The Execu|Search Group’s Nonprofit division, encounters and finds important to address when working with job seekers considering a career change.

“There are many misconceptions about the nonprofit industry that continue to dissuade professionals from taking the first step, but don’t let these hold you back,” says Dana. For example, some of the general misconceptions professionals from the corporate world have of the nonprofit sector include:

  • The professional environment tends to be slower-paced;
  • There are fewer financial benefits (i.e., bonuses, stock options, etc.).

Nonetheless, if you are considering transitioning into the nonprofit industry from the corporate world, here are the most important factors you should take into consideration:

1. You’ll make a direct impact

What if besides higher pay, a better benefits package, and room for growth, your job could provide you with a deeper satisfaction…one that makes you a happier, more well-rounded person? “Working in the nonprofit industry gives you the chance to focus less on reaching a financial goal, and more on creating positive change in the community,” says Dana. “Nonprofit organizations appreciate candidates with strong business acumen in addition to a mission-driven work ethic.” In the nonprofit sector you are more than just a number within the organization; you get the opportunity to make a difference while learning new skills and gaining experience in areas you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

2. Your definition of success will change

If you’re considering making a career transition from the corporate world, it’s important that your perception of success changes to one that is more in-line with the nonprofit world. “Success is not based on profit margins, but instead on how positively the communities at large are impacted.” Therefore, the passion you bring for working towards a higher goal is essential to your success.

For many professionals in the corporate world, strong performance is usually expected to be rewarded with some type of monetary incentive (i.e., increase in compensation, bonus, etc.), and many believe the myth that nonprofits don’t pay as well. However, according to Dana, this isn’t necessarily the case. “While many believe the myth that nonprofits pay less than for-profit corporations, the nonprofit sector offers intangible incentives that can make for a very rewarding career,” says Dana. For example, nonprofit organizations offer their employees excellent health benefits.

How can better health insurance make up for a lower salary? For instance, under a 401c3, employees pay much less for health insurance on a monthly basis. Nonprofit organizations are also becoming increasingly adept to changes in the market, and as a result, are open to negotiating competitive salaries and incentives in order to find and retain the best candidates.

3. Your soft skills matter most

With all of this in mind, what exactly are nonprofit organizations looking for in a candidate from the corporate world? “While the technical skills you acquire in the corporate world can be transferable to most business environments, it’s your soft skills that will set you apart from your competition,” says Dana. In fact, The Execu|Search Group’s 2015 Hiring Outlook, which surveyed hiring decision makers in the Nonprofit sector, revealed the most in-demand soft skills prospective candidates should possess in order to thrive in the industry. As a result, be sure to highlight the following soft skills if you plan on making a difference in the nonprofit world:

  • Passion for mission-driven work
  • Resourceful when presented with limited resources
  • Initiative/Drive
  • Flexibility/ability to adapt to change