Dear nonprofit friends and social entrepreneurs,
My message to you is good news. Your skills are highly transferable and coveted in the private sector!
After twenty years in the nonprofit space, I gravitated and then grabbed with all my might the title 'social entrepreneur' when it came out ten or so years ago. It gave me the identity I wanted, to be an entrepreneur but with multiple bottom lines. People, Profit and Planet.
We had to be fiscally strong, build a great team and measure our outcomes to make an impact. On a deeper level, we had to help youth (age 11 - 18) build their exit strategies from poverty by channeling their passions and hobbies into small businesses and build skills to make it in the market economy.
Our charity had to run like a business, I personally put enormous pressure on our team to practice the best practices we preached to youth. As a regional executive director and national team player achieving these outcomes never felt like a job -- as cliche as it sounds, but I know you can relate, it was a calling.
When I decided to transition to the private sector, or shall I say back to the private sector after my ten as I looked at it 'Peace-Corp-Length-Tours-of-Duty' were over. I called one of my mentors who had worked also as a leader at IBM. Dave made the switch from Corporate to Nonprofit helping lead NFTE for many years. He had tremendous perspective and knew I was a little insecure about how I'd fare with kids on the new playground.
"Your skills will be more transferable than you think Julie," he said to me. "You probably won't believe me but nonprofit is harder. You do more with less. In for-profit the outcomes are clearer and often easier to measure."
I was super excited about technology start-ups that could scale quickly and impact positively the world, so I dove in July 2012 to my new life helping small business employers get better talent, faster through crowdsourcing jobs (Click here for how it works). This was the brilliant brainchild of my friend and one of my past charity committee members Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, and we decided to team up. The double bottom line that I could still help the world was a great lure as well as I can't sell something that doesn't make a big difference.
Every day I take inventory of my skills and their transferability between sectors. I had a huge desire to test myself in the start-up life and work through any personal insecurities.
So here are three ways nonprofit girl or guy, that your talents are easily transferable and that you should feel confident about your unique abilities you can bring to any sector :
Your Network Is Gold: In nonprofit, your network and stakeholders are used to you leading and asking for help. It was so much easier for me to 'make things happen' and bring on first customers and funders because we know and respect each other and these relationships are many years old. In the private sector, people are so willing to introduce you to people very quickly and this goodwill was a delightful and unexpected surprise to me. So build, maintain, keep your network always. Look at key relationships as life relationships. I thought I would lose part of my network when I stepped down, not the case! As my network is regional and national entrepreneurs in fact, we have more in common than ever and it has opened for me an new team of friends and personal advisors. Entrepreneurs are pack animals and it's super fun to now officially run with the pack.
Stay Scrappy But Have High Standards of Excellence: A few months ago I was offered a marketing budget of X I hardly knew how to spend it. In charity, we wanted our money to go into kids and programs so we learned to move mountains, innovate, leverage with enormous creativity and often not sacrificing quality. People often thought I had 20 members on my team in DC, we were actually about 450 but in actuality only five of us were full-time employees (the other 445 -- rock star board members, volunteers, business plan judges, certified teachers, collaborating partners, fantastic national colleagues and more.) There is no skill that's helping more than to not rely on a big budget, find ways to make things happen better,faster,cheaper, use guerrilla tactics -- innovate! One of my favorites is this incredible opportunity and social campaign we just launched in partnership with Microsoft SMB to help small- and medium-size businesses hire in the cloud.
Fundraising: As a charity leader you are up speaking at galas, events, board meetings. You are selling a vision every day. You need 300 to 1,000 people to say yes! to you annually. You are selling a vision that people pay for as they want to help make the world a better place and they give both their time and their money. This skill to get up and pitch your heart out, to speak up in a very compelling way and without fear is crucial in building a business. You've done it in nonprofit. You do not have to have this level of dealflow in for-profit to be successful. At Barrel of Jobs, our seed investors are coming to the table now and often as a result of great pitch events we participated in this fall such as DEMO 2012, Distilled Intelligence, Tien Wong's CONNECTpreneur, Cooley CapConnection and DCWeek. You have a huge skill here!
There were times that people would ask me if I was a volunteer for the nonprofit I ran. The assumption often is that a social mission is run solely by volunteers and somehow its easier. Nothing could be further from the truth and in fact, I have doubled my appreciation for nonprofit leaders, the results many get, and the challenge they take on for our world.
Please share your stories with us of skills you built in nonprofit and how they have transferred into the private sector or vice versa below in comments. Love to hear from you! -- Julie