If you are a senior, like me, who has a full-draft of your thesis due next week, it is tempting to justify putting off your job search for another few weeks—or even until your thesis is done–BUT YOU SHOULDN’T. For those of you interested in nonprofit work, the time is now to “pull out all the stops” in your job search.
Unlike many of our classmates who interviewed on campus in the fall with major corporations and investment banks, careers in nonprofit organizations, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations require students to be more proactive in their search. Many positions are filled through networking, volunteering, or interning. Employers may not have the funds, staff, or time to commit to a full-fledged recruiting process, but there are jobs available for college graduates, as long as you take the right steps:
Activating a network is key. Building a network of people who can assist you in the job search is not as difficult as some may think, especially for Princeton students. Nearly anyone with connections to the nonprofit or public service sectors can be a potential resource, and all it takes is a simple email, phone call, or meeting to begin a relationship. For seniors, alumni are a particularly good resource, and using the Alumni Careers Network (http://tigernet.princeton.edu/olc/pub/PRU/), is a quick and efficient way to search for alumni in the nonprofit field who are willing to offer career advice. Even if someone is unable to help, they may be able to introduce you to other individuals who are better suited to answer questions or assist with job searches.
Use every resource possible to search for both job openings and organizations. At Princeton, you can use tools such as TigerTracks (http://bit.ly/hRfvly). However, there are also a number of posting sites dedicated to jobs in the nonprofit field. For a detailed list of websites with nonprofit and philanthropy job postings, see the following link on Career Service’s website: (http://bit.ly/i1FvUJ). In addition, consider using social media tools such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to meet people in your potential field and look for job openings. Do not rule out internships or temping positions or even volunteer opportunities, as they may be easy places to get your foot-in-the-door and gain some experience.
Take advantage of Princeton’s focus on public service and the many events and programs on-campus. Every year Career Services hosts a Nonprofit Career Fair that is open to all students. It gives interested parties the opportunity to meet with dozens of organizations and discuss potential full-time, internship, and volunteer opportunities. This year, the event is in Frist’s Multipurpose room on February 25th from 1-4 PM. It is often the only time that so many of the nonprofits are represented on campus, and the most effective way to learn about organizations. Other Princeton-specific organizations, such as Princeton AlumniCorps, Princeton in Asia, Princeton in Africa, and Princeton Internships in Civic Service are also great resources. (Interested students should check the organizations’ websites and Career Services for information and application deadlines.) Finally, students should check the Career Services Events Calendar (http://www.princeton.edu/career/events/) to see when nonprofit speakers or organizations will be visiting campus. For example, the IMAGINE Speaker Series is hosting Katherine Brittain Bradley ’86 on February 25th at 4-5 PM at Career Services. As founder of CityBridge Foundation, Mrs. Bradley will be discussing her career journey in the nonprofit field and speaking with students at a networking reception afterwards.
Tailor your resume, cover letter, and interview preparation not only to the nonprofit sector, but also to the organization to which you are applying. Research each organization you are applying to and create a customized resume and cover letter that addresses their specific needs, criteria, and mission. Also, use your research as you prepare for an interview by practicing your talking points, coming up with relevant examples from your previous experiences, preparing your own questions, and showing your commitment to the field and the organization’s mission.
Personally, my father has worked for a few nonprofits over the last several years and identifies with the mission of his organization. He feels fulfilled by working for a group that is “making a difference” in the world. Students who have similar career goals may be interested in the nonprofit world, and should not be concerned if they do not see a large number of nonprofits recruiting on campus. With over 12 million employees in the nonprofit work today, there are plenty of opportunities (ranging from international in scope to grass-roots level) for those who are proactive in their search.