Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Create Your Own Nonprofit Internship

In these challenging times, it is especially hard for college students and recent graduates to find work in the nonprofit sector.  Even though the economy is recovering, the field is still very competitive to the point where it can be hard to make yourself stand out as a young professional trying to establish a nonprofit career.  I have talked in the past about the importance of looking for nonprofit internships as an alternative to a paid position.  A lot of times, you can find great internships or co-ops by searching through non-profit job boards, but sometimes these opportunities can be created by making a simple call.

It may not be a particularly comfortable experience, but you should seriously consider getting a list of popular nonprofit organizations in your area and just giving them a call to offer your services as an unpaid intern.  Even if these organizations might not have a position listed online, it doesn't mean they don't have use for some free labor.  The truth of the matter is that nonprofits (especially up-and-coming ones) are always in need of help.  This help may not always be glamorous, but it often will lead you to a nonprofit job if you do a good job and make a great impressio on your co-workers.  Even if you call up and find out the organization doesn't need any help, make it a point to give them your name and contact information, as you never know when the next opportunity will arise.  And I know I mention this a lot, but taking initiative is one of the most impressive things you can do.

Now, before you make the phone call, it's a good idea to create a little script of what you want to say (thogh try and memorize it before you call, so you don't sound stilted).  It should be no more than a 60 second blurb describing your interests and skills; just something to give the employer an idea of what you can do.  Also, make sure that you are directed to someone in Human Resources as they will know better than a secretary whether there are any internship opportunities available.  And remember, the most important thing is to sound confident.  It's a little nervewracking doing what really amounts to a cold-call, but confidence breeds success.  And with any luck, you will have landed yourself a chance at a nonprofit internship or co-op.

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