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Insights: How to Transition From a Non-profit to a For-profit Job

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Submitted by: WISE San Francisco member | 15+ years professional experience

I work at a non-profit and have for the majority of my career, but am looking to transition to the for-profit world. I know my job experience won't translate exactly to the corporate world, so what advice do you have on how to highlight my high-level skills — collaboration and consensus building, high-level policy setting in digital media literacy and education, "white hat" lobbying and thought leadership — in a way that will be seen as desirable? Do you have any suggestions on how to secure an appropriate pay rate and not get low-balled because of my current salary?


Whenever you look to move between industries or from the not-for-profit to profit world, your focus should first be on identifying the type of role you want and the company or industry where you want to work.

This is important because if you are clear about where you want to go next, it will help you focus on preparing your resume and planning your job search. Many roles in not-for-profits are found in the profit world so your first step is to identify those roles. If your role can be defined as traditionally “corporate,” such as finance, technology, human resources, or marketing, then the transition can be a lot easier.

Next, be clear about your skills and experience. Review the job description for the position you want and think about where your experience matches that. Your experience, even if it is from a different industry, is valuable. An advantage of working in the not-for-profit area is that since budgets are typically smaller, you have to be a lot more creative in how to get things done. Use this and highlight it to show you have the ability to be creative. Highlight your successes, what you’ve done that you are proud of, and where you made a difference.

Information on salaries can typically be found on many recruiting agency websites, so that is a good place to look to see where the industry you are targeting falls. There is no way to avoid the dreaded “so what are you looking for in terms of compensation” question. If you have done your research, though, you should be able to respond clearly with your expectations. Most recruiters know that salaries are lower in the not-for-profit sector, so you won’t be expected to show you that you were being paid the same as what the new job is offering.

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Jane Hollman

About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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