Tough to Transition From Nonprofit Job


Q.  I have worked for two non-profits over the past seven years. While I enjoy it, I’d like to do something that pays a little better.  How can I best position myself to transition from non-profit to corporate or agency work? I’ve done many of the basic PR functions–write releases, pitch, write bios and fact sheets, create web content, manage social media, field media calls.  Will an agency or corporation take me seriously? I’m willing to start at the bottom and put in time as grunt work.

A.  Transitions from nonprofit jobs are more difficult than should be the case, although several corporate and agency friends making the move the other way report similar difficulty gaining credibility with nonprofit hiring managers. 

Most agencies require prior agency experience for positions above entry-level, and many now favor intern and entry-level candidates with prior agency experience.  You might want to research which agencies work in areas similar to your current organization.  That’s the best way to leap into a higher-than-entry-level position.   

Rachel Wallins, Ketchum’s head of human resources, agrees that you may have to start at an entry-level position in order to learn agency life, but she suggests that you stress your agility and quick learning curve.

Rachel also recommends that your resume should focus on the things you did that were relevant to corporate and agency PR work.  “You may even want to consider a skills-based resume rather than a chronological one, which stresses your deep experience–citing the work your doing first and WHERE you are doing it second,” Rachel said.

Often, nonprofit PR professionals face misperceptions that the pace of their work is less demanding than high-pressure agency and corporate positions.  Be sure to tailor your resume to emphasize the relationship of work you’ve performed with the types of activities in the job that you’re seeking.  And stress the speed and agility that you applied to each assignment.

2 thoughts on “Tough to Transition From Nonprofit Job

  1. Hello, Ron.

    Thanks for this informational post. As a current student much of my internships come from non-profit work. As I prepare to graduate I would like to work for a PR agency. Do you have any advice on how I could better prepare myself for PR agency work?


  2. John,

    Put together a portfolio of writing and social media work from your non-profit internships.

    Focus on agencies that have significant CSR practices (usually can identify such agencies through their website descriptions and PR directories). You’re more likely to gain an entry-level position at CSR-oriented agencies rather than agencies that are brand marketing focused. O’Dwyers and PR Week directories provide insights into agency specialties.

    Good luck.


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