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Considerations when making the move from the corporate world to the nonprofit sector

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Perhaps you have been employed in the corporate sector for many years and are looking for a change, or maybe you are a new graduate who is looking to make a difference in the community. There are a number of reasons why people choose to work in the nonprofit sector! Whatever the reason, if you are contemplating making a move from the corporate world to the world of nonprofit, here are a few points to consider in your decision making process.

1. Financial

First and foremost, let's talk about dollars and cents. It is no secret that the wages in the nonprofit sector can be significantly lower than comparable positions in the corporate world. If you are realistically able to consider a potentially lower wage, and are still on the fence as to the move, maybe ask yourself, what’s the trade off? Will you gain more in terms of personal satisfaction and accomplishment by working in the nonprofit sector? Consider carefully whether this would be enough to get you off the fence.

2. Research the industry

Meet the players in the your local nonprofit community; you will learn that not all organizations are the same in terms of structure, philosophy and service. Larger nonprofits may run on a more corporate type organizational model - from hiring staff to onboarding practices, from access to larger resources to the structure and role of the board of directors. Other nonprofits may have a more grassroots approach, following a more holistic approach to how service and supports are provided, as well as how staffing and the day-to-day functioning of the organization are handled. Knowing where you would be most compatible is paramount in terms of your future success and overall happiness.

3. Meet the organizations

Once you have decided what type of nonprofit organization you want to work for, try to establish industry connections. Consider volunteering or becoming a member of an organization's board of directors. This “hands-on” approach will provide you with a more solid understanding of the work that is done at the organizational leve, as well asl their funding streams, their strategic direction and how they apply for and distribute funds related to new and existing projects.

4. Be prepared for change

The nonprofit sector may differ from your experience in working in the corporate world. In the corporate world, you may have been responsible for the day-to-day management of large projects or maybe various small ones. Either way it is very likely that in achieving success you had access to additional staffing, financial resources, etc. Many nonprofit organizations operate on very specific and generally tight budget that can limit the access to extra funds to support outcomes. You can expect to find yourself wearing many different hats in order to achieve your objectives. In the end, the reward for being open to this change can result in both personal satisfaction and professional success.

Making a career shift is not an easy decision to make. Taking the appropriate time to make sure the move is right for you is key. Be sure to involve planning, commitment and an introspective, open minded approach and you'll set yourself up for a successful transition.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius)

Lisa McBride has been an Employment Consultant for over 16 year years; supporting youth and adult clients to reach their employment and training goals. She currently works with Job Skills in Ontario.

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