Ask Amber: How to write a nonprofit resume

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

This week, I explore how you can take your resume to the next level, even if you are still in school.

Question: How do I write a nonprofit resume?

My advice for those of you looking to build a nonprofit resume is to get involved in any way you can. Experience is key, but if you are new to the nonprofit sector, don’t panic. There are plenty of opportunities to gain worthwhile experience. Jump into the nonprofit world headfirst and gain as much experience as you can. It not only shows potential employers your passion for the field, your ambition and your growing knowledge of nonprofits, it allows you to make connections essential to someone new in any field.

There are plenty of internships available in the nonprofit sector, and some don’t even require you to be getting college credit—perfect for recent grads who need a little more hands-on experience to bump up their resume. These internships offer practical experience and though they may not equate to a job on your resume, they will bolster your developing skill set. As with anything today, there are plenty of internship websites that can help you in your search. One that I found to be really user friendly and helpful in college was www.internships.com. If you are in school, take advantage of your internship director’s or guidance counselor’s advice. He or she can likely give you information about the company, other students who have interned there and what they did to excel. You may even be able to get an update about where that internship led previous students. If you are not a student, search the company’s website to get a feel for the organization and ask friends what they know about it.

Opportunities to volunteer can also provide you with contacts useful in developing your nonprofit career. Adding to your list of contacts can benefit you when you need advice, such as when you might want to know more about an organization you are applying with. Developing close contacts in the field will also help you when it comes time to list references who can specifically attest to your nonprofit experience. Volunteering will likely help you develop skills transferable to whatever job you may want to go into. Try to pick a volunteer site that will allow you to not only help the organization and the cause—which should be an important factor in choosing a volunteer site—but also will help you develop your own skills.

Finally, if you are already very involved with a particular nonprofit, look into options to join its board or a committee. Anything you can do to get more involved is good. Joining a board or a committee opens your eyes to the inner workings of an organization and allows you the opportunity to influence major decisions. You will gain an understanding of nonprofit event planning, fundraising and marketing, and board experience is an in-demand skill.

Breaking into the nonprofit field means working to convey your passion for a worthy cause and backing that passion with credible experience. Until you have years of formal job experience to put on your resume, make sure you take advantage of volunteer and internship opportunities that you are already involved in to hone your skills.

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