“You get paid for your job?”, pat came the question when I mentioned to my Uncle that I was working in the nonprofit sector. And was I surprised? No! Every time I spoke about my job or my passion for the social sector, I would get some curious glances from people around, followed by the question, “What is your real job?” Over the years a lot has changed and a career in the social sector is no longer considered as mere charity or a volunteering opportunity but promises good growth together with a sense of gratification. Though organizations working in this space are there to engage and empower communities, the work ethic, and culture match well with that at a for-profit organization. I constantly come across a lot of professionals who are seeking a career transition from the for-profit sector into the nonprofit, social impact world. And irrespective of the background one comes from, one brings to the table a set of transferable skills that will not just help you excel at your work but will also add to an organization’s growing pool of diverse talent.
What are transferable skills? How do you identify them and market them when looking for a job? Don’t organizations have one-size-fits-all requirements and job profiles? What is the best way to establish the connection of your previous work with your new potential opportunity? Identifying these questions and understanding the skills is always a great starting point to start that transition.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills or soft skills are core skills that you acquire in a particular role but can be transferred and applied to a variety of roles across industries. Be it your ability to communicate effectively, leading your team and efficiently delegating tasks and optimizing the available resource, managing time, undertaking research and data analytics or fostering successful collaborations and partnerships, these are crucial skills that can be used to successfully perform a job in any industry. Internships, volunteer work as well as your regular everyday job, all help you acquire and hone these skills.
Key skills that are transferable to the nonprofit sector
Data analytics: Although social sector organizations are nonprofit ventures, they are very data-driven and highly focus on the impact of their work. If you have experience as a data analyst in the corporate sector, you can transfer your analytics skills to help organizations measure the impact of their work and translate the findings into actionable inputs.
Communications and Marketing: Raising funds for the various programs and implementing outreach campaigns to engage with communities are two areas where nonprofit organizations are constantly looking for help. If you are a marketing and public relations professional and have experience identifying and cultivating prospective clients, making presentations and pitches, organizing road shows and brand activation events, then you can use these skills to help the organization raise funds, cultivate corporate partnerships as well as organize various outreach activities.
Management Consulting: Management Consultants bring with them a plethora of skills from their consulting experience. Problem-solving and analytical skills, project management, understanding the market and competition analysis or understanding a new geography for business expansion are some extremely valuable skills that can be transferred to the nonprofit space. Especially in the social space, we see an increase in social impact/ social venture funding organizations and microfinance institutions. It is no surprise that professionals with a consulting background are highly sought after.
Technology and IT: Technology is playing a key role in addressing various social issues. There are several Tech for Good initiatives that have used crowdsourced maps and mobile solutions to address issues around women’s safety, gender-based violence, urban planning & governance and health & nutrition. There is also an increased awareness to address the gender gap in STEM and nonprofit organizations are stepping up to equip girls and empower them with coding and other technical skills. If you are an engineer with experience in coding or building android mobile apps and want to use your skills for social impact, there are several organizations looking for people like you.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. There are several other skills that are transferable and can help one successfully transition into the social sector. Every role and every job help one develop different skills. It is important that every individual identifies those skills and understand how best they can use them to empower communities and bring about the impact they are passionate about.
About the Author:
Sharda is a development sector professional who has worked in areas as diverse as urban planning, governance, gender empowerment and social enterprise. She is passionate about using the digital space for empowering the society and improving citizen participation at varied levels. She strongly believes in the power of education and the ways in which it can act as a catalyst in empowering communities. It is this belief that has been instrumental in her choice of working within the education domain.