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March 31, 2009


Paving a career path

There is no traditional career path for entering the nonprofit sector. As a result, the scores of graduates interested in pursuing rewarding careers in this sector have to be flexible and creative to find attractive opportunities. Volunteer experience is a distinct advantage when pursuing job opportunities in the sector. In addition to showing an eagerness to work in the sector, volunteer experience ensures that the right ethos, skills and knowledge are developed. Relevant experience and knowledge are generally far more important than qualifications alone to most employers in this sector.

However, the need for more and better trained nonprofit administrators is fuelling the development of many well-respected degree programs at universities in Australia and around the globe. At the same time, more people, particularly students, are showing an interest in pursuing a career in nonprofit administration.

That said, if you are still an undergraduate, a great to pursue a career in the sector is by starting to volunteer, perhaps one day a week or during holiday periods. Most universities have volunteering societies that you can join that give you opportunities to volunteer in the local community. This is a very large foot in the door. Also, a CV that shows commitment to volunteer work and the charity sector will ensure potential employees are taken more seriously than other applicants. Volunteering in this manner is also an excellent networking opportunity and, bear in mind that you're often likely to hear of unpaid opportunities within the sector before the paid ones.

When applying for a job within the charity sector, the application process almost always entails beginning by filling in a detailed and structured application form rather than submitting your CV. The next step may involve a telephone interview and then perhaps a second face-to-face interview. Don't be surprised if you are also asked to undertake a number of case study assessments, verbal and numerical reasoning tests, a personality questionnaire or a group exercise. While handing in your CV is a good way to approach an organisation initially, be warned that there will likely be many more hurdles to jump.

While most charities may not have a dedicated graduate recruitment scheme, the majority of voluntary and community organisations will advertise posts that require a degree. Experience is normally a necessity for these posts. Specialist positions frequently arise in departments such as personnel, information technology, accounting and public relations. Alternatively, graduates may find it easier to enter the sector through lower-tier administration positions.


Filed Under: Job Search