Nonprofits and Associations are Rewarding Career Opportunities

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It’s May!  You know what that means?  It’s graduation time for colleges, career/technical schools and high schools across the country.  Armed with degrees in multiple disciplines, this year’s graduates are fortunate to be entering a fertile job market with promising careers and salaries awaiting them. 

To all graduates out there, congratulations!  So, what’s next?   I’d like to pitch a career working for a nonprofit or trade association. To those who are starting a job search towards a meaningful career path, but aren’t focused on a specific field, here is an opportunity to consider.  No matter what your degree, there is likely an association or nonprofit who could use your talents.

Many of you may be asking (as I once did), “What’s a nonprofit or a trade association?” 

The Wikipedia definition of a nonprofit is a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view. It is an organization that brings together folks who are passion about an issue or cause to solve problems.  It uses its surplus of the revenues to further achieve its ultimate objective.”  Its programs include fundraising, education, and community activities among others.

A few of the many notable and diverse charitable nonprofits are the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund, KIVA, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, GlobalGiving, and Teach for America. These groups have a common mission of making our world and lives a better place, so if you have a passion about a specific cause, research the charitable organization supporting that cause and consider it your vocation.

A trade association, also known as an industry trade group or business association is a membership organization founded and funded by businesses that function in a specific industry sector. An industry trade association partakes in activities such as advertising, education, political advocacy, research, digital media, and publishing, but its focus is on collaboration between companies. Associations may offer other services, such as conferences, tradeshows, networking, certification or advanced education.

Some well-known trade associations are:  National Home Builders Association, National Retail Federation, American Chemical Society, National Restaurant Association, American Nurses Association, and the Consumer Technology Association.

An association is an excellent career choice if your have a degree in any of the above-mentioned fields.  But associations can also use liberal arts, technology, finance and business degrees as well as those with two-year, technical or administrative degrees because, like any for-profit business, these functions build the foundation of the organization. 

As you do further research on these organizations, you’ll find nonprofits and trade associations represent every industry and charitable group imaginable, so no matter what your interests or your degree you will find a group representing the interests of that industry.  Don’t rule out an internship with a nonprofit or association because they can be the best step towards getting your foot in the door. 

Speaking personally, I have had a long career in association management and love it!  I am passionate about an association career because it provides me the opportunity to meet people globally; to make a contribution to a national and global cause;  to directly impact and change an entire industry for the better;  to travel; to earn a decent income; and to work with challenging and competent individuals who become lifelong friends.

Give it serious consideration for a career path.  Good luck with your career search!