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Four ways to bridge the gap between your corporate background and an NFP job interview

Coming from a corporate background and considering making the switch to the not-for-profit sector might leave you feeling a little anxious. The culture and job expectations can be significantly different, and some organisations are wary of hiring staff without prior experience in the NFP sector.

So if you’ve scored a job interview at your favourite not-for-profit, how do you convince your interviewers that your for-profit achievements are relevant?

Here are four ways to help make your corporate experience work for you when you’re interviewing for a not-for-profit job:

1. Speak the right language

Profit, sales, shareholder value – while these ideas rule the corporate world, they don’t mean anything in the not-for-profit sector. And that could mean one of your biggest challenges in an NFP job interview is communicating your achievements in a way that’s meaningful to your interviewers.

If you want to help them see your corporate experience through an NFP lens, try switching focus – both in your CV and in person – to the idea of impact.

In the for-profit world, impact often refers to your influence on the bottom line.

But not-for-profits generally exist to improve people’s lives, which means measuring impact will more likely be about making a difference to real people’s lives, or building awareness about an issue.

You may be accustomed to corporate measures of impact like KPIs, quotas or billable hours – and performance measures won’t come to an end in a move to the not-for-profit sector. Arguably, measurable impact can be even more important there because budgets are often smaller, and that could mean you need to demonstrate success to access more resources.

So how can you discuss the impact you’ve made in your for-profit work in a not-for-profit context? Think in not-for-profit terms and reinforce the ‘why’ – the passion that’s compelled you to apply in the first place.

Consider the impact that your skills and experience in the business world could have on the work of the NFP organisation. How will you contribute to the impact their work has on the world?

2. Get creative

One of the most valuable qualities you can display as a candidate interviewing at an NFP is creativity. NFPs often operate on shoestring budgets, so highlighting your ability to do more with less will go far in helping you stand out in the applicant pool.

Show the interviewers the kind of creative thinking you’ll bring to the table should you be successful. For example, for a communications or marketing role, you could draft a blog post or article for the organisation’s website, mock up collateral for a fictional campaign, or put together a fundraising proposal – anything to highlight your ability to think laterally and come up with creative solutions with scanty resources.

3. Be honest

Though it essentially applies to any interview situation, being upfront about your needs and desires – to both yourself and your interviewers – is critical to your success in the NFP sector.

Do you have specific expectations around salary, flexibility of hours, or opportunities for advancement, management or professional development? Now’s the time to share. You might be surprised by the response you receive – and if it’s not positive, it may be the organisation isn’t the right fit for you anyway.

In particular, being honest about salary expectations is imperative – especially if you’re hoping a move the NFP sector means you’ll be able to keep your pay comparable to the corporate job you’re leaving. You won’t necessarily need to accept a pay cut, but you might find you’ll have to shift your expectations.

4. Show your worth

Your value as a candidate extends far beyond the stats and metrics that express your experience. What NFP hirers really want to see is a genuine expression of who you are and what drives you.

What does that mean? Highlight your passion, work ethic and resourcefulness. While they can’t be measured, they can help present your CV – with which the interviewers are already ostensibly impressed – in an even better light.

It can be challenging to translate years worth of for-profit skills and accomplishments into something that speaks to not-for-profit organisations. But when push comes to shove, a little bit of background knowledge and the right attitude can transform your corporate experience – and transform you into an excellent fit for the not-for-profit sector.

This post is based on an article originally published by Idealist Careers.

Do you have any tips for transitioning from the corporate world to the not-for-profit sector? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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