My Nonprofit Story: Part 1 of Who Knows How Many

The nonprofit sector has basically been holding me against my will for the past 14 years.

Now, technically I’m kidding. But you know every joke has a kernel of truth….I’ve tried getting out of the nonprofit sector twice already.

The first time was during my senior year of college. By that point, I’d held 5 internships with 5 nonprofit organizations for over 5 summers. I also had a nonprofit work-study job, a 4 year stint with a local org doing client advocacy  work (by teaching people how to ask the right questions).

It was a great gig, and I grew a ton in that time. But my resume – and upcoming student debt – seemed to scream one crystal-clear message: I should try going making tons of money.

And the nonprofit gods had their fun with that one, because what inevitably happened was two-fold. For one, I didn’t get many interviews with the fancy schmancy consulting firms. Apparently years of nonprofit work didn’t impress (or maybe I was doing it wrong. I’ve learned a lot about job hunting since then.)

But more importantly, the majority of jobs i was looking at didn’t interest me at all. Unbeknownst to me, I had cultivated this requirement to work for a place with a higher purpose…but I had no idea it was going to drive me back to those nonprofit job boards.

That was the first time I tried leaving. The second time is more significant.

A few days before graduation, I landed a great role with a national organization. I was on their fundraising operations team, with a lovable crew of funny, sarcastic, charismatic fundraisers. I got to pull my introvert hat all the way down by getting lost in the world of spreadsheets, data and Salesforce.

But over the course of 2 years, watching these professionals do their thing sparked my own curiosity! I was intrigued by the limelight that fundraisers seemed to attract, and while I loved ops, I needed to know if relationship management was something I’d enjoy doing just as much.

So when it came time to leave my org, I decided to aim for B2B sales roles. (I know. Writing that felt gross for me, too.)

I went through rounds of applications and interviews with different tech companies. (BTW, job hunting is hard. But if you can get clear on what you want out of your next job, you’ll be amazed at the confidence and resilience you feel doing that tough work).

I ultimately got an offer for a startup that sounded like a great fit, doing work I found interesting, with a likeable team. But it was a giant paycut, to do work that I knew would be grueling, in the most expensive city in the world. And it wasn’t even with a nonprofit! After lots of agonizing, I declined and hoped I was worth more than that.

My last week at my old job, I got wind of a role that sounded too good to be true – a relationship manager role that had me working directly with nonprofits instead of businesses. AND oh cruel irony…it was at a nonprofit organization.

Fast forward 3 weeks and I had the job I didn’t even know I was looking for.

The story doesn’t end there. It’s still very much going. But I’ll leave it here, because the amount of growth that’s happened in these recent years is something I’d need a whole blog to cover.

What’s your story? Share it in the comments!

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