How Working In Nonprofits Has Helped Grow My Career

My first exposure to a nonprofit organization was in high school. I had the opportunity to work as an intern for a local organization who put together an annual Asian American film festival for the local community every year. I guess you could say that that’s what started it all.

As I write this, I am a few days past the six month mark at my full-time job, which is at-you guessed it-a nonprofit.

This is not to say that I have only worked for nonprofits; I have also taught English and worked in retail. Having said that, I have found myself going back to nonprofits time and time again throughout the course of my career. Here’s why.

How Working In Nonprofits Has Helped Grow My Career

Nonprofits Are Always Looking for Volunteers

This can be especially helpful when you’re unemployed or looking for something to pad your resume; I know it helped me. Each time I have needed something to fill gaps in my resume, I have turned to nonprofits to gain experience.

That experience is more valuable than any salary; it shows an employer that you are willing to learn, willing to start from the bottom and work your way up. 

Working and Volunteering in the Nonprofit Sector Has Allowed Me to Experiment with Different Roles and Sectors

Volunteering and working in the nonprofit sector has allowed me to learn about different sectors and if I would be a good fit for certain positions. It was through volunteering as a member of a video production team in 2013 that I realized that I would not be a good fit for a job in the filmmaking industry, no matter how much I admired the medium.

I went from volunteering in a film festival to volunteering at a mental health nonprofit, where I again, realized that I wasn’t a good cultural fit for this particular organization. Volunteering and working in the nonprofit sector allowed me to determine the kind of organization I was looking for, and identify the sorts of assets I could bring to the table.

That knowledge has guided my choices; each respective experience in the nonprofit sector has taught me something that I carry with me in my career journey. 

Working In Underpaid and Unpaid Roles in Nonprofits Have Allowed Me to Know My Value

I recognize that I am privileged to be able to afford to take underpaid or unpaid roles within nonprofits over the years; not everyone has the luxury of the ability to take such positions. With that said, I am now at a point in my career where I understand my value as an employee and the skill sets I bring to the table.

This is not unique to the nonprofit sector by any means. I firmly believe that taking underpaid or unpaid roles in any sector will allow you to see your value. With that said, the majority of my experience has come from the nonprofit sector, which is why I credit the field for teaching me the value I bring to the table.

Working in Nonprofits Gave Me Varied Skill Sets

Unlike most of my friends who jumped into teaching English soon after walking across that stage, I took my time and explored the communications field before jumping into the world of English teaching for three years.

I ultimately decided to go abroad in 2017. During the five years that I spent in the States, I worked and volunteered with a lot of nonprofits, which gave me the opportunity to develop a lot of different skills within the Communications industry from writing effective social media copy to video editing.

Waiting to go abroad to teach was ultimately the best decision for me because I was able to take the time to develop other skill sets that ultimately allowed me to make a smoother transition into my post-ESL teaching career. Had I not taken the time to volunteer or work for nonprofits, I would not have been able to take the time to develop those additional skills. Who knows where I would be today.

In Summary: How Working In Nonprofits Has Helped Grow My Career

Working in the nonprofit sector has ultimately given me many opportunities to explore different things and has ultimately helped shape me into the person I am today. 

About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.