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September 30, 2020
 
Change Your Career: Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector
Laura Gassner Otting
Laura Gassner Otting
Growing competition and high turnover at senior levels over the next few years will usher in a staffing crisis for nonprofits—but great opportunities for people who want to transition into the sector. They should read Change Your Career: Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector by Laura Gassner Otting.

Although written for those who are thinking about making the move to nonprofits, the book could prove a valuable recruiting tool by boards of directors and advisors to nonprofits looking to attract the top talent nonprofits will need to thrive.

Otting, founder and president of the Newton-based Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, a search firm that works with nonprofits, makes the case for a nonprofit career as fully and passionately as anyone. But she does it with open eyes. She lays out the advantages and disadvantages, and provides a framework to help guide readers to assess whether the nonprofit sector is for them—and, if so, which part of the sector.

As someone who knows and understands nonprofits, Otting advises that people who are considering transitioning from the for-profit sector to nonprofits ought to be clear about their motivation, e.g., are you running away from your current career or toward a new one?

Most importantly, she debunks myths about nonprofits frequently held by those working outside the sector, and explains common stereotypes that for-profit job candidates need to be aware of when seeking a nonprofit career.

Otting brings alive the pitfalls and rewards of making the transition by drawing on her large store of experience working with for-profit candidates looking to make the jump. Case histories throughout the book detail how individuals went about their search and spell out the lessons they learned.

The advice rings true. For example, one lesson recounted by a woman now with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits in Atlanta: “Don’t assume the nonprofit sector will be thrilled that someone from the for-profit sector wants to transition to the nonprofit field. Anyone making the switch had better hone their answer to, —Tell me why you want to come to the nonprofit sector?’ and mean it!”

Change Your Career will also be a useful resource for people working in nonprofits who want to take stock of their careers, as questions Otting poses are just as apt for people inside and outside the sector. To wit: Would you rather work for a company or a cause? Do you want your work to be more personally meaningful? What do you want to have done in your career and in your life? What do you want to be remembered for?

Otting artfully links high level issues with the practicalities of a job search. She provides extensive tips for successful networking, how to structure your 15- to 30-second elevator speech, what to wear to your interview, questions to expect—and to ask—at an interview, and how to discuss salary. She even provides lists of action verbs to use in your resume to help describe your experiences. Again, all good advice for job seekers currently working outside—and within—the nonprofit sector.

Change Your Career, from Kaplan Publishing, will be officially published in May.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

April 2007
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