Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nonprofit Job Success Story

Even though it's been two years since the Great Recession officially ended, people across America are still having trouble finding work, especially nonprofit jobs.  Yet through all the trouble, there are still success stories out there.  I recently received an e-mail from Sarah Goldbaum, a recent NYU graduate who now works at Skirball Cultural Center in LA.  She was kind enough to share her story with me, which you will find below.  Hopefully it will inspire you to keep up the search, even when things seem hopeless.  Enjoy!

I graduated NYU in the summer of 2008—I had just finished summer classes in July and made the cross-country move from New York back home to Los Angeles.  I had really wanted to work for a non-profit, but not only had that job market disappeared, but many non-profit employees had been laid off. I had worked at Jazz at Lincoln Center as an intern then as a part-time employee during college so it was hard to adjust to eight months of unemployment. After applying and not hearing back about over 50 different positions, I settled for a job at a healthcare/health insurance company then left for a job at a small start-up financial company. I was unhappy with both and kept looking into non-profits, even at assistant-level positions to try to get my foot through the door.  I found the LA non-profit industry to be extremely nepotistic, most only interviewing people they knew personally or people who already worked at another local non-profit.

I had applied to an Advancement Assistant position at the Skirball Cultural Center, though I wasn’t familiar with their fundraising software—my background is in marketing and design, so I wasn’t too surprised that I didn’t get the position. Then one day last October, I received a phone call from my now-boss, who is in charge of Special Projects. She was impressed with my cover letter and appreciated my design background since her purview in Special Projects includes anything and everything from overseeing the museum store, planning exhibition opening events for donors, and overseeing the choice of interior design items for the entire campus. The Advancement Director had passed on my resume and cover letter as a good candidate for the Special Projects assistant. A couple interviews and a skills test later, I got the job and started in November. I’m extremely happy here and feel that my work is appreciated.  More importantly, I feel that I’m a part of a team and that my work makes a difference. It was a long time coming, but I finally got a job I love, though maybe not necessarily the job I had thought I wanted.

The lesson from this story is simple: Sometimes the best jobs are the most unexpected ones.  Though the job at Skirball Center might not have been what Sarah was initially looking for, it turned out to be a great decision for her.  That's why it's so important to apply to jobs that might not necessarily be your dream position. 

Sarah's story is also a good lesson in perseverance.  She could have easily given up on her desire to work in nonprofits and stuck it out in jobs she didn't enjoy.  But because she wanted to work in this field so badly, she was able to find work she truly enjoys.  So the next time you are thinking of just packing it in, keep this story in mind.  And remember, if you have any stories similar to Sarah's, please send it in to me at

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