Are you looking to advance your career? You got this! Check out these six tips for young professionals who are seeking a new role in the nonprofit sector.

Looking to make a move, but unsure if now is the right time? That was me in 2021. With a little faith and a lot of strategy, you can be successful in making a career move during the pandemic.

Like most other sectors, the nonprofit sector has experienced its ups and downs since the onset of the pandemic as we all become adjusted to this new normal. But nonprofits are resilient, forward-thinking, and live out their missions to the people they serve no matter what. That is what makes them special and is also the reason why, even amid a pandemic, 2020 was a record year for philanthropy to nonprofits.

Below, I offer six tips for young professionals who are seeking new roles to advance their careers.

1) Be reflective

One of the greatest advantages you can give yourself during your job search is to understand what inspires and motivates you. Can you answer this question, “what animates you”? Taking the time at the beginning of your search to reflect on this will save you time, money, and will focus your job search on roles you actually want to pursue. Ask yourself “if I had to do the tasks in the job description for the next 3-5 years, could I?” and “what about the roles I am seeking sounds the most interesting?” Furthermore, ask “what are my strengths and what type of projects do I enjoy?” At the end of the day, you do your best work when you believe in the work you are doing, so take the time to think about what that might be when you begin your job search journey.  

2) Think about your foundation

Building a career is like building a house. You have likely started drafting blueprints for your career and now it is time to decide the layout and lay the foundation of your professional future. A strong, sturdy foundation is the backbone of any house, and without it, the walls would collapse in on themselves; the decisions you make in your early career are no different. You want to make sure you are setting yourself up for success for when it is time to build the roof or build that additional wing ten years from now. Ask yourself “what skills do I have? Where are my opportunities to grow? Will this job that I am considering help me build my foundation or grow my toolbox?”

3) Reach out

Young professionals often make the mistake of trying to “go it alone” during the job search. Make it known to your friends, family, and most importantly your academic and professional network that you are searching. You want people to think of you when they see an opportunity cross their desk. Be as specific as possible with your network. For example, “I am seeking roles in the X sector of nonprofits, and looking for X, Y, Z positions, which are entry- to mid-level career roles, in X, Y, Z cities. Could you keep me in mind? Could you think of any current openings that describe this? Would you be on the lookout for me?” The last part is the most important part—ask them to help you!

Finally, nonprofits are built on relationships. You’d be surprised at how successful you might be reaching out to folks in the positions you are applying for or other staff in the organization. Reach out to them, be honest with your intention, and ask them to provide you with details about the day-to-day at the organization or describe what kind of work is done in the role you seek.

4) Your identity and you

It is important that you feel safe, validated, and welcomed as it relates to any aspect of your identity in the workplace, including race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, and other identities. Seek out data about the organization’s values during the interview process. For example, you could ask about the employee resources groups (ERGs) available to staff, or you could ask to see a list of comprehensive benefits. The answers to those questions can reveal information about the culture of an organization. For example, does the organization have robust ERGs? Does the organization offer time off for religious holidays? Does the organization have healthcare plans that are inclusive to trans and gender-nonconforming folks? Does the organization have universal parental leave regardless of a parent’s gender? All these answers can signal how an organization takes care of its people.

5) Challenge yourself

Consider applying even if you don’t meet every single experience requirement to a T. Instead, you should consider positions that will challenge you to grow and develop professionally. If you are applying for jobs where you can achieve all that is required on day one, there is no room to grow. That is why tip one and two are critical to think about when you begin on your job search journey. A manager or direct supervisor shouldn’t expect that you know how to achieve every aspect of the role and should be willing to guide you in the beginning of your work together.

6) Keep going

Finally, and maybe most importantly, keep going. Amid a turbulent employment environment, the marketplace can often feel over-saturated. Plan for this. Create a timeline for yourself with contingencies as it will likely take longer than you think it will. By setting yourself up, whether financially, mentally, or otherwise from the onset, you eliminate (or at least reduce) the stress associated with the “I have to take this job to live” mentality. Know that rejection is part of this process and reflect on how you digest rejection—what time will you need to just take a break from looking or writing another cover letter? There are many nonprofits that are staffing back up, organizing and planning for fundraising campaigns, and making investments in their people—there is a job out there for you.

Being intentional about the decisions you are making as you think about your next move will pay off in dividends. You got this!


CCS is hiring for numerous roles across departments. Check out our Careers page to learn more!