I am a 43-year-old woman working as an Administrative Assistant in a large corporation. For a long time now, I have been contemplating a career change into the non-profit field. I would like to work in a helping position that would allow me to utilize skills that might be of benefit to people in need. The hard part is that, while I could take some part-time courses, I cannot afford to go back to school full-time. In short, I am at a time in my life where I would like to have more meaningful employment. Do you have any advice for me?
-Unfulfilled in Uxbridge
I am so glad you wrote to us for advice. It is not uncommon for people at some point in their careers to desire a position that provides more personal fulfillment. I have some points for you to consider;
What non-profit sector? There are many to choose from. Do research first. Consider that along with non-profit agencies, many large corporations have foundations set up to assist with a particular cause. I highly recommend charityvillage.com for information on everything from sector profiles to careers and volunteering.
Say, for example, you have decided you would like to work with a settlement agency. Research these agencies and in what areas they hire. Most non-profit agencies require administrative support so there may be a direct route. Look at things such as salaries and benefits. Review job ads for qualifications required for the job you have in mind. What skills do you have that are transferable and what do you need to add? There may be volunteer positions you can take on to become more familiar with the community you wish to serve. Many agencies often offer training prior to taking on a volunteer role. They will also ask for a criminal background and/or a vulnerable sector check. Be prepared with that information. Treat applying for every volunteer role the same as you would applying for a paid position. These are often your chance to shine!
Volunteering in different roles provides an opportunity to see if this is an area you would like to pursue. My previous volunteer experience as a Tutor provided the impetus to go back to school part-time to study Adult Education. This led to paying positions as a Tutor in both ESL and Adult Literacy. Neither of which I would have been able to secure without having that combination of education and frontline experience.
I hope this information helps somewhat. Change can be scary but also quite exhilarating. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.