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VOL. 129 | NO. 91 | Friday, May 9, 2014

Angela Copeland

Transitioning Between Corporate and Nonprofit

By Angela Copeland

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Career transitions are all the rage these days. Whether it’s moving between jobs more frequently or updating your skill set midstream, change is happening. One trend growing in popularity is employees who are making a move between the nonprofit and corporate worlds.

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on now, the grass often looks greener on the other side. And, the good news is, many employers are warming up to the idea to. Now the questions becomes, how do you make such a bold move?

If you’re transitioning from corporate to nonprofit, your journey is a bit more direct. There’s been a trend underway for the last 10 years to run nonprofits more like their money-making cousins. Start by considering the value and skills you bring from your current job to the nonprofit world. If you are a marketer, can you market products in different industries? If you’re in corporate sales, could you consider nonprofit fundraising?

Then, begin plugging into the nonprofit community by serving on boards and volunteering your time. The more people you network with, the easier it becomes get an interview when the right job becomes available. Add these experiences to your resume and LinkedIn profile and you’re on your way.

If you’re making a move in the opposite direction, the journey may be a bit longer, but is not impossible. One approach is to consider for-profit industries that are adjacent to your nonprofit’s cause. For example, if you work at a health related nonprofit, you could consider a health related for-profit.

In addition, you have probably worked in a small office where you’ve become very entrepreneurial by being exposed to many different types of roles. Nonprofits are often short on cash, so employees learn many different skills. Entrepreneurship and the ability to master many different tasks are popular ideas within corporate America today. Prepare to talk about this advantage you bring.

Begin attending networking events where you can meet your corporate colleagues. Look for meetings of national organizations in your specific field of interest like the American Marketing Association or the Project Management Institute. Last, you may want to consider taking on small consulting projects to build up a list of for-profit experience. Include these on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

There’s one other important point to note. No matter how hard you work to prepare yourself for this transition, chances are high that someone who interviews you won’t agree with your plan. They won’t understand how your skills transfer or why you want to change your path.

Do your best not to let it get you down. Remember that you just need one person to believe in you. You may have to talk to more people than you’d like to find that one person, but when you do, your foot will be in the door. Once you’ve made the transition, there’s no looking back. Future employers will view you as a proven resource, and no longer someone who’s making a big change.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, www.CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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