Careful Planning Can Bring Good Career with Non-Profit Group

THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 18, 1993 | Go to article overview

Careful Planning Can Bring Good Career with Non-Profit Group


Had enough of the stress of corporate competition? Tired of the profit motive that propelled you through the last decade? Looking for what you view as a more stable, more "meaningful" career in a non-profit organization? Go for it, but be cautious.

Good advice comes from Toni Smith, a partner in the executive search firm of Spencer Stuart, who assists many people in the transition from the corporate world to the non-profit world. In order to be successful and see repeat clients, she has to match the seeker with the non-profit organization so that there are no misconceptions and disappointments on either side. For the executive seeking a position in a non-profit, here are a few of the caveats: Just because you may have been a vice-president or higher in a profit-oriented business such as a bank or law firm doesn't mean you are necessarily qualified for the top job in the non-profit of your choice. There are a lot of human relations factors and issues such as motivation of both the volunteer staff and the paid staff which require rethinking. Critical acclaim may be more motivational to a museum curator than attracting more persons to a showing. In business, you could simply order the employee to do a task because he or she was paid; try ordering a volunteer to do a task. The management style which got you ahead on the corporate ladder may not translate into the non-profit sector. An authoritarian style may be OK in a Wall Street brokerage house, but a participatory style is met with cooperation in an arts organization.

If one seeks to make a difference in the world through a move to a non-profit, he or she must be willing to adjust management style to accommodate the needs and mission of the organization.

Indeed, there is a great need in non-profit organizations for the talents of business people. As government funding is increasingly scrutinized, non-profits must develop more creative ways to establish the necessary financial base of operations and, at the same time, handle the issues of realigning services in accordance with the mission. Operationally and financially, non-profit and business-world refugees each have much to offer the other.

QUESTION: I've been in banking for about 15 years. Now I'd like to make the move to a non-profit organization and put some meaning into my life. What can I do?

ANSWER: Consider your transferrable skills. If you are in marketing, purchasing or similarly generic area, you may have less retooling to do than if you were purely a commercial lender. Inventory your skills and create a resume which highlights skills and experience needed by the non-profit of your choice.

Also, consider that you may have to tailor each resume to each prospective non-profit employer since each may have very different missions. …

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