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Volunteering to a Lifestyle-Friendly Career in Non-Profit

By Nancy Collamer

What better way to spend your time than getting paid for work you would do for free?

For many people in search of a more meaningful and lifestyle friendly career, that means trading in the corporate life in favor of employment with a foundation, charity or other non-profit organization.

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5 Tips for Optimizing the Transition to a Non-Profit Career

One of the best ways to transition into the non-profit arena is through volunteer assignments.

As a volunteer, you'll enjoy the chance to learn more about the inner workings of the non-profit world, develop needed skills and make connections with people who can help you network your way into paid employment.

Of course, not every volunteer assignment will lead to a salaried job. But by being strategic about your volunteerism, you can maximize your odds of turning your volunteer hours into a paid position.

Here are five tips for optimizing your volunteer time as you transition into the non-profit world:

  1. Avoid volunteering simply because you are asked 

    We've all fallen into the trap of taking on volunteer jobs simply because we were asked and felt obligated to help (school bake sales anyone?).

    But if you're serious about going to work for a non-profit group, you are going to have to clear your calendar of the "just because" volunteer hours and replace them with meaningful volunteer jobs that are more closely aligned with your career targets.

    Limit your volunteer efforts to jobs that will help you gain contacts, skills or knowledge that are closely aligned with your non-profit goals.

  2. Do your homework

    Not all non-profits are created equal. Ideally, you want to find organizations that have the financial resources to support paid staff members.

    But at a minimum, seek out non-profits that are well-managed and provide volunteers with meaningful opportunities to strengthen their skills and enhance their non-profit resumes.

  3. Volunteer in high-impact areas

    Be a problem-solver. Offer your services in ways that can make a real difference to the organization. Fund raising, development, and volunteer recruitment are three key areas where non-profits almost always need assistance.

  4. Seek out organizations with "power players"

    Networking is the single best way to find a paying position in the non-profit world (just like it is in the corporate world).

    Focus on volunteer opportunities with organizations that are run by people "in the know" who can help you build your network of influential contacts within the non-profit world.

  5. Broadcast your intentions

    Once you've proven your worth, don't be shy about letting the staff and board of directors know that you are interested in finding paid work.

    You never know when they might be willing to hire you for a temporary project or a more permanent position.

Finally, take advantage of some of the many excellent resources listed here on Job-Hunt to help you make the leap into the non-profit world.

More About Volunteering


About the author...

Nancy Collamer, M.S.,is a career coach, speaker, and author of the new book Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement (Random House, 2013). In private practice since 1996, Nancy gained national prominence in her tenure as the Career Transitions columnist for Oxygen Media. She has spoken at venues ranging from Harvard Business School to the California Governors Conference on Women. Please connect with Nancy on Twitter @NancyCollamer and on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com.


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Guide to Lifestyle-Friendly Careers:

Changing to a Lifestyle-Friendly Career

Home-Based Businesses:

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Career Change Options:

Turning a Hobby into Income:

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