Career Resources

Writing a resume for a not-for-profit: What's different?

Writing a resume for a not-for-profit: What's different?

By The Good Jobs Team, 17 May 2016

The social sector Resume advice

1. You have to be a people person

Not-for-profits are friendly places (partly because they tend to use pleasant workplaces as a trade-off for not paying high wages). Being tough and uncompromising gets you points in the commercial sector; not-for-profits value people getting along and negotiating outcomes.

2. You have to be a jack of all trades

Not-for-profit culture emphasises pitching in when it's needed. Where a commercial organisation would get someone in to do a job, not-for-profits ask around the office for someone to put their hand up. Emphasise your flexibility and the extensive breadth of your skills.

3. You have to talk the talk

Every not-for-profit will have its own jargon to go with its own problems and issues, but all share an emphasis on respecting diversity. You might call this "political correctness" - but if you do, you may not be suited for work in this sector. In any case, try and read some of the organisation's material to see which terms they prefer for their clients.

4. You have to be ready to roll on day one

Very few not-for-profits have the resources to conduct formal training. Most don't have the resources for much on-the-job training, either. They're probably looking to you to tell them how the job should be done.

5. You have to be self-motivating

Not-for-profits tend to be bad at hierarchy - they're against it in theory, and slack at it in practice. Try and make a virtue out of this. If you want a clear line of responsibility and close supervision you may be in the wrong business.

6. You have to have done your homework

Not-for-profit executives tend to identify with their jobs more than commercial executives do. They like to think they're in it for the cause, not the money. This means they feel disrespect more keenly; and your not having heard of the organisation, or not knowing what it does, counts as disrespect. Look into the past few annual reports, at the very least.