In the nonprofit sector, your CV needs a little extra love.
The job hunt is rough, there's no denying that. You're expected to create a detailed, yet concise curriculum vitae (CV) that sells your skills as much as it sells you as an individual – so how do you find that perfect balance? And what if you're thinking of working for a niche or specialised industry like the nonprofit sector?
At the very core of it, a CV for a job at a charity should pinpoint exactly why and how you're the right person to help drive the organisation's cause. Not sure how to do that? Here's a handy list of everything you should (and shouldn't) have on your nonprofit CV.
Things you should include
A charity CV doesn't function in exactly the same way as a CV for a private sector. True, you'll need to include standard information like previous experience and your valuable skills, but there's another element that can't be ignored: your passion. Why do you want to work for this charity and its fundraising initiatives? What personal connections (if any) do you have with the cause? And how can you help drive the charity's mission?
The good news is that this can be finessed quite easily. With a few tiny tweaks and a bit of creative salesmanship, you can share both your skills and your personal motivations in a very small space. To do this, make sure you include the following in your charity CV:
1. Related work experience
Not all of the roles in the charity sector exist in the corporate world. After all, what exactly does a 'Wish Granter' do and how do you become a 'Head of Historic Properties'? Although the job titles may sound a bit unusual, the skills they require are fairly standard.
If you're shifting from the private sector to the nonprofit, your skills and relevant experience will still go a long way during the job search ‒ no matter where you gained them, they are valuable in many areas. In fact, sometimes nonprofit recruiters and employers prefer to bring in candidates from other roles and sectors because they offer a fresh perspective and bring along new processes and ways of thinking.
2. The desire to make a difference
According to a quarterly snapshot published by the Charity Commission at the end of last year, the nonprofit sector consists primarily of small (and very small) organisations. This means that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for driven team members with a desire to help out wherever and whenever. Ultimately, they will care less about your having the perfect skill set and more about your commitment and connection to the cause.
Charities want to hire employees who really care about their mission and fit in with the company culture, which is why it's important to highlight any volunteer, fundraising or passion projects you've been involved in. And it doesn't always have to be about business – maybe you ran a few marathons and raised money for your local charity or were active in community politics. And if you're fresh out of university, this volunteer work is a great way to make up for a lack of work experience on your CV.
3. Soft skills and transferable skills
Nonprofits need people who are not only good at communicating and building relationships, but also understand empathy and sensitivity in difficult situations. In fact, the charity sector places a great deal of value on soft skills because of the nature of the work you'll be doing.
In a recent survey of nonprofit recruiters, skills like compassion, empathy and kindness were highlighted as valuable qualities for candidates to have. You can be great at project management and communicating in a professional setting, but if you lack that human understanding and emotional intelligence you probably won't last long in the role.
Things you should avoid
As much as you want to showcase your personality and humane qualities, there are also several things you should steer clear of on your CV. These include:
1. Too much personal information
This is true across all sectors. Although you may be tempted to prominently display a photo of your lovely, smiling face at the top of your CV, don't do it. The nonprofit sector is just as human and flawed as any other, so it's best not to allow any opportunity for discrimination. The same goes for including your marital status, religious preference, sexual orientation or age.
2. Overly corporate language
Unless you're applying for a big-name charity, there's no need to use overly formal language in your CV. In the nonprofit sector, you're likely to be dealing with people from a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds, which is why the language in your CV should illustrate that you're approachable and easy to talk to.
Ultimately, the thing to remember when creating your nonprofit CV is that your passion is just as important as your skills and experience. You can develop new skills, but you can't fake passion (and HR managers know that). Good luck and happy hunting!
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