Our advice for nonprofit job seekers, part 1
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Our advice for nonprofit job seekers, part 1

Our advice for nonprofit job seekers, part 1

In part 2, Robin will talk about how to write a cover letter and resume to get the job of your dreams but first, let’s make sure it really is the job of your dreams.

The best advice I can give to anyone seeking a job at a nonprofit is that your day-to-day work experience will not be defined by the mission of the organization. A bad work environment is a bad work environment even if you’re doing good. In fact, a bad job is even worse if you came into it because you loved the mission, because the experience will sour you on both the organization and the mission and turn you into a cynic. Our industry already turns out cynics at an alarming rate. Here’s what to watch for before you apply and during the interview process so you’re not the next one:

  1. Architecture It’s fashionable (and desirable!) for companies of all kinds to advertise a collaborative atmosphere. Look at their office space. Is everyone quietly grinding away huddled in cubicles or alone behind closed doors? Real collaboration requires a space where people can interact. If it hasn’t been prioritized in the office design, it’s not part of the culture.
  2. Advancement Is there a career path inside the organization, or are you going to be stuck in the same job until you get tired of it and leave? This is an easy one to find out. Look at the bios and LinkedIn profiles of the current staff. If you see people who have worked their way up inside the org, especially from internships to full staff positions, this is a company that rewards good work.
  3. Culture Ask everyone on the current and former staff you can find about the culture of the organization. You’re not just looking for a good fit for your personality. You want to hear basically the same answer from everyone. If you don’t, there may be infighting, a leader who plays favorites, or some other shenanigans.
  4. Mess The organization’s mission won’t define your work experience, but those giant piles of paper will. Disorganization will waste 80% of your time and burn you out.
  5. Turnover Why are they hiring? If there’s been a ton of staff turnover, is there a problem with management? If all the management is leaving, look for a problem with the board. Relationship experts will tell you not to marry someone thinking you can change them. We’re telling you the same thing about your job. Stay away.


Does the job opportunity you’re looking at still look promising? Awesome. In the next post, Robin will tell you how to get the hiring committee’s attention.