Working for a non-profit organization can be incredibly rewarding, but that doesn’t mean your career progression should take a back seat. While many people are willing to accept a lower salary or fewer benefits in exchange for working for a cause they’re truly passionate about, there’s no reason why you can’t continue your climb up the career ladder while making a difference in society.
However, moving up in your career is often easier said than done. It’s no good waiting around for opportunities to find you – you have to actively look for them. This blog will provide you with some actionable tips on how best to progress your career in a non-profit environment, allowing you to feel fulfilled on all fronts.
Remember, career progression within a company will always be a mixture of hard work, strategy, and luck. Sometimes your plan may take longer to execute than you would have liked, but with the following steps, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Develop new skills
Many people stop learning once they leave education, but developing your knowledge and skills is key to advancing in your career. If you’re unwilling to become a better communicator, try new software, and refuse to step outside your comfort zone, you’re likely to stagnate in your current role.
Developing new skills can mean many things, so don’t worry, you won’t necessarily have to do something you’re not interested in. For example, staff working in the financial department may benefit from learning more about accounting software for nonprofit organizations, especially if the company’s current solution isn’t working very well. Not only will they be learning a new skill, but they will be able to make suggestions on how to improve processes, which is very valuable to most organizations.
Marketing professionals may want to learn how to film videos for TikTok, while customer service representatives could brush up on their knowledge of analytics to better serve different audiences. Whatever new skill you’re developing, make sure it’s related to the role you would like to progress into.
Prepare for an interview
Many employees assume that if they’re progressing within a company or applying for an internal role, they don’t need to have a traditional interview. However, chances are, you will need to produce your resume and be interviewed by a panel of managers, so it’s important to treat any internal openings in your organization as you would a new job. This means making sure you’re up to date on your organization’s projects, the job description, and the backgrounds of the people interviewing you.
If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, make sure you’ve included all your responsibilities and achievements. Try not to exaggerate too much – it’s likely your manager will be able to tell.
Be wary of delicate political situations
You may have come across the saying: ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’ While this might ring true in certain circumstances, be very careful about getting caught up in workplace politics. Some employees have been known to try and ask for favors or make friends with senior executives to get the promotions they want, but this can be a very precarious route to tread. It’s always best to let your abilities and skills shine through, so try and focus on what you bring to your role and the ways you’ve already changed the organization for the better.
Network and maintain strong relationships
Despite politics being a precarious route, it is important to build strong networks within your non-profit organization. There’s no harm in showing interest in the work of other teams, connecting with managers, and asking whether there’s anything you can do on your end to make their jobs easier. Even making small talk and strengthening your interpersonal relationships outside of work can make you seem like a more pleasant person to work with. After all, teams have to communicate with one another and nobody wants to work with someone who is always in a bad mood.
By networking with multiple people in your organization, there’s a higher chance that managers will think of you when there’s an opening in their team. You may also be invited to work on new projects temporarily, which could help you develop your skills or even lead to a promotion or new position.
Demonstrate your commitment to the cause
Non-profit organizations are usually made up of passionate people who genuinely want to help others in society. This means it’s important to demonstrate your commitment to the cause that your non-profit is fighting for. You can do this by going above and beyond your role, actively keeping abreast of industry trends, and understanding what people in your community are looking for. You may want to consider conducting interviews with the general public, paying attention to what people are talking about on social media, and taking initiative when you spot problems surfacing. Try to avoid doing excessive amounts of work voluntarily, but saying yes to overtime when it’s needed could certainly go in your favor.
Start progressing in your non-profit organization today
Moving up in your career won’t happen overnight, which is why it’s so important to start the process as soon as possible. Before you take action on any of the above steps, it may be worth having a conversation with your manager to find out what progression typically looks like for employees in your position. They may be able to give you some tips and targets you can aim towards to help you get promoted more quickly, or there may already be job openings they think you’d be perfect for. Sometimes managers won’t think to push you towards internal positions because they don’t think you’re interested, so let them know.
It’s important not to get disheartened if you’re finding it hard to reach your dream role. Sometimes career progression isn’t linear and you may have to make some lateral moves before you move up. The thing that matters most in a non-profit environment is that you’re doing work that matters to you.