How to Pick the Best Nonprofit Job

Apr 27, 2015 | Life Coaching Blogs

You won’t know which job is best for you based on the job description.

I’ve read and written hundreds of job descriptions. Frankly, they don’t tell the whole story of working for a certain charity, the organizational culture, or what success means for that role. But they’re the best tool we have right now.

Raise your right hand. Repeat after me.

I will never look at a job description again and say, “This job is perfect for me. I must work there.”

Instead, in this post, I want to equip you to look at a job description and say, “I’m interested in learning more about this role and this organization.”

I once had a job where in the interviewing process the staff mentioned that they loved “to work collaboratively.” I DO TOO! Except I didn’t explore what it meant for these colleagues to work collaboratively. Once I was hired I realized that they worked using a consensus model of decision-making. While they both begin with the letter “c” and are a type of decision-making process, they are very, very different. And let’s just say that consensus-style decision-making and my brain do not comprehend each other very well. Lesson learned.

How to Find the Best Culture for YouMeeting

In many organizational interviewing  processes, the first interview(s) are for the hiring manager to determine if you have the right knowledge, skills, and abilities. The second interview is for the nonprofit (and you) to determine if you are a good fit culturally.

A cultural fit is even more important than a skill fit. A cultural fit will help ease your anxiety to help you find clarity sooner if you need to switch jobs. Plus nothing beats the feeling of going to a job everyday knowing that your teammates and your manager have your back.

There are many factors that create an organizational culture. For you, as a jobseeker, consider ways that you can identify your ideal culture and then where you can flex during your job hunt. Here are some questions, that if you ask yourself, will get you closer to identifying what kind of culture you work best in and is part of what gives you  energy and passion for a job.

  • What’s your decision-making process?
  • When working as part of a team, what role do you prefer to play?
  • What percentage of time do you want spend working alone versus working in a group?
  • What are your core values? How do they overlap with the nonprofit’s values?
  • Identify the qualities of one of your favorite supervisors. What about him/her brought out the best in you?
  • What kind of communication do you expect from the leaders?
  • What is your expectations of processes within the organization? Do you prefer to follow processes or design them?

You may also consider reviewing your DISC profile and Myers-Briggs profile to see if they add insight for you.

After you’ve responded to these questions, think of ways to re-frame these questions so you can pose these during your interviews. Then evaluate their responses during your deliberations. Their responses should weigh just as high as the salary and benefits.

While you may feel pressure (from yourself and from others) to take a job because of the title or the salary (I’ve certainly done that), remember that this is 40+ hours a week of YOUR life. You get to decide what will bring you joy and have you contributing to a cause you’re passionate about with energy and compassion.


Don’t forget: registration for From Dreaming to Doing closes on Thursday. Get even more tips on how to make the leap from for-profit paycheck to nonprofit career. Learn more here.