Mark McCurdy runs the www.thenonprofitcareercoach.org.
Kerry Connor is the National Recruitment Director for Jumpstart, a national non-profit organization that focuses on early intervention for at risk preschoolers. They place older adults to work one on one with at risk preschoolers.
Mark volunteered at Read for the Record, a national campaign to raise awareness around the country for early childhood education. There were over 11,000 events around the country last year.
Kerry learned about Jumpstart from the NBC Today Show. Education has always been important to Kerry. She grew up in Savannah Georgia and went to a school where the education was poor with a lot of disruption, including bomb threats almost everyday and even some shootings. She was lucky because her parents read to her daily.
Kerry says there is a story everyday that givers her a reason to want to do this work. Statistics like the fact that the number of prison cells needed is projected based on 3rd grade literacy rates. When she looked a Jumpstart she saw a lot of opportunities. Even though she did not have a recruiting background, this seemed like a good fit for her.
To get engaged in this sector, the mission has to resonate with you. It’s not enough just to want to make a difference. Break your skills down, prepare to be flexible and work hard. For entry level people she looks for people who are coach-able. If you want to get involved, you can in a couple of different ways. If you are a college student, try on an internship or a strategic volunteering opportunity. If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to work in this space, Jumpstart has community core members that work 300 hours per year working one on one with at risk preschoolers.
Find a mentor or a career coach that has major experience in the nonprofit sector are two additional ways to help accelerate your nonprofit career.
When focusing on social impact careers, I suggest asking yourself each morning, “For whom am I trying to make a difference?”. Answering this question will empower you with purpose, accelerating your social impact career. Being part of a purpose that is larger than you will help lead your career on an organic path of self development. Life has a habit of bumping us off coarse now and again, and I have found many of my clients, and even myself at times, beginning to sway off course from our true purpose from time to time due to other mitigating factors in our lives. Having a well-defined purpose is a wonderful natural guide back to your purpose of creating impact and making a difference in this world.
Powered by Passion!
Can passion really help accelerate your nonprofit career?
Learn how a search powered by passion can make all the difference!
By Mark McCurdy
Passion as described in the Webster dictionary says:
PASSION: A strong liking or desire for or devoted to some activity
When you build your job search or career search around the mission or position you are most passionate about, you ensure a strong foundation on which to build your search. When you begin your search with passion at the core you also build emotional IQ and physical confidence. A cause you are passionate about draws from your values and spirit to help change the future. If you are passionate about the environment or stopping gun violence you probably have very strong feelings about the cause due to a past positive or negative experience. You may love the environment because you have wonderful memories of time spent with family and friends in the great outdoors, or maybe a volunteer experience with the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. If you have a deep passion to stop gun violence, chances are you or a loved one has experience in this field. Both examples give you great past experience and first-hand knowledge on which to build your job or career search which come from a deep passion that is unique in a different way than your job skills are.
Could this be you? A client of mine we will call “Stan”, is very passionate about ending gun violence and educating youth and young adults about it. He unfortunately has had first-hand experience with gun violence growing up and has sadly lost friends who were victims of gun violence.
The emotional strategy for Stan to build his job search around this mission is actually a powerful mindset and can be an advantage throughout his job or career search. When the question comes up as to why he is passionate about the mission of stopping gun violence it is crystal clear how much he cares. The power behind his strategy is deeply rooted in past experiences and the turmoil of personal loss making it a natural fit. That fact that he is taking personal control of the loss and is taking positive actions to solve the greater problem of gun violence is another confidence booster. The fact that Stan has an emotional commitment to the mission helps build honest repoire with the interviewer and improves the chances that Stan will be called back for a second interview
The physical difference in his demeanor and body language when Stan talks about the topic of gun violence is easy to recognize. Stan’s true inner self is revealed and his energy becomes almost contagious when we talk more about this issue that he is passionate about. When passion becomes a daily part of your job search, or even your career, you tend to have an increased depth of self-determination and creativity. There are bound to be challenges that arise day-to-day, but when Stan focuses on the mission that is most important to him, the organization gains an employee that has a deeper level of commitment to the cause than someone who does not have personal experience with gun violence.
Now some of you may be thinking, I don’t exactly have one mission that is most important to me, but I do love computers (or hiking, or car repair, for example). So how can this passion work for me in the non-profit world? You can still use your deep passion for your trade as a catalyst for making a difference. Often times, your trade has been or is your hobby. For example if you love working on computers and you work as the IT professional or as part of a larger IT team then you can use your passion for computers to lead your search in the nonprofit sector. However, it is still imperative to know something about the sector and organizations in which you are applying. For example, if a close family friend has used assistance at the local food pantry in the past and you learned how helpful and supportive the food pantry was to your friend, you may offer your IT services to the food pantry. You may start by volunteering your time and expertise. Other organizations may be looking to hire an IT professional, but again, it is imperative that you understand the work and mission of an organization, its management and work style, and how you might fit into their culture. On the other side, if you are applying for work at a museum but you know nothing about the museum and have no feelings about the arts, then you will most likely feel out of place in this environment. Please refer to my past blog article on career transitions for more information on cultural fit.
Whether your passion is deep seated in the organization or in your enthusiasm for the cause, the emotional and physical advantage that comes from building your job search from the foundation of passion stacks up well against the competition from others applicants. The competition is less likely to have the same level of passion as Stan does when it comes to gun violence. Stan’s new found knowledge that his passion is actually a major advantage against the competition builds confidence and accelerates his job search. Your job search will be stronger when powered by passion!
Mentorships Build Tomorrow’s Nonprofit Leaders
By Mark McCurdy and Molly Zeff
With three out of four nonprofit executives expected to leave their jobs during the next five years, mentorship programs provide an effective tool to help fill the leadership vacuum by ensuring that future top-level executives are better prepared to take over.
Mentors are guides who provide advice based on their experience in a given field. A more specific definition comes from one nonprofit, Career Collaborative, a nonprofit that provides employment services, which defines mentoring as “a tool to facilitate, guide, and encourage growth and creativity while preparing for the future.”
While the mentee is the more obvious beneficiary, mentors find the relationship to be an excellent way to have a long-term impact on individuals, their organizations, and the nonprofit sector as a whole. In passing their knowledge to a less-experienced individual, mentors have the rare opportunity to gain insights into different types and levels of jobs, which improves their abilities to effectively supervise in their own workplace.
The structure of mentorships varies widely: Mentorships can be formal or informal, of a short, fixed duration or open-ended. A mentorship could be an internal, structured program complete with trainings, goals, and activities that matches a company’s newest hires with veterans in the office. Alternatively, it could simply be a casual arrangement—monthly lunches or a phone call every few months—initiated by an individual in a new position who occasionally seeks out a more experienced colleague’s advice on a particular strategy or project.
Andrew Cohen, who works on health-care access at The Access Project, a Boston nonprofit that helps local communities improve health and healthcare access, has benefited in countless ways from experiences as both a mentor and a mentee.
His year-long experience mentoring a recent college graduate taught him that “being a mentor can be a really important skill-building exercise”; it allows us “to put in practice the skills needed to build another leader.” Mentoring deepened his own leadership by prompting him to consciously reflect on his own work.
“It’s really easy to go through your life and your work without taking the time to look back at how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it and how to be more effective,” Cohen explains. “Mentoring provides me with the time and place for reflection on the work that I do.”
Benefiting the Sector
Regardless of their structure, mentorships improve the ability of nonprofit professionals at all levels of an organization to execute their jobs well. Moreover, they can improve the nonprofit sector as a whole in a number of ways:
Promote positive change. Knowledge-sharing facilitates networking between employees and organizations. Networking, in turn, builds contacts, raises an organization’s visibility, and encourages nonprofit professionals who share similar goals to work together. The resulting collaborative relationships quickly build the power to affect real change.
Shorten the learning curve. Mentorships help new employees quickly identify the skills necessary to do their jobs well. A mentor’s expert guidance enables them to recognize the best strategy or tactic in a work situation and to sense potential pitfalls. Applying lessons learned from mentors’ past experiences helps employees avoid the same mistakes and enhances the mentees’ impact early in their new roles.
Provide an outsider’s perspective. Because they do not have an evaluative relationship with the mentee, mentors are able to provide valuable advice from an outside perspective. Additionally, they are not caught up in day-to-day management tasks, such as fundraising, supervising, and program development, at the mentee’s organization.
Confront challenges. Mentorships build self-confidence in new employees while building the mentee’s ability to deal with challenges in the workplace and effectively confront issues as they arise.
Retain knowledge. Mentorships ensure that the experience of executives and other nonprofit professionals will continue to benefit individuals and the sector even after these executives have moved on. The more knowledge that flows freely among nonprofit professionals, the more likely that the invaluable lessons mentors learned throughout their careers are not lost.
Many invaluable mentorship resources are either free or low-cost. To create a mentorship program in your workplace, or to learn more, look into these resources:
Mark McCurdy is President of the Nonprofit Career Coach and founder of Jobs in Nonprofits (JNP). He can be reached on twitter at @jobsnonprofits or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Molly Zeff is a researcher/writer at JNP.