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A New Leaf’s Hughes: 4 reasons to work for a nonprofit

Michael Hughes.

Did you know that the nonprofit sector is now the third largest segment of the U.S. workforce? The sector has grown by 20 percent over the last 10 years in contrast to a growth rate of 2-3 percent for the for-profit sector, according to PNP Staffing Group. Arizona’s nonprofit industry – some 21,000 organizations strong – is a thriving force in the economy and growing bigger every day.

As CEO of A New Leaf and chair of the board for Arizona State University’s Lodestar Center for Nonprofit Philanthropy, I see a front line view of the innovative services and impactful programs tackling our state’s most intractable challenges. From homelessness to health care to education, the nonprofit industry is transforming lives and bringing improvements to Arizona’s cities and neighborhoods.

If you are at a point of transition in your life, whether you are finding your first job or considering a mid-life shift, now is the time to consider working in a field that is expanding and fulfilling for countless people in our state. It’s more than a job – it’s something you can truly care about. You can make a real difference in the world and earn a living in the process.

Consider these four reasons to select a career in the nonprofit field:

  1. Get on the fast track to professional development. There’s a saying that three corporate employees may be assigned to one project, but one nonprofit employee will often be assigned to three projects. This can lead to faster career development and more varied job responsibilities for those looking to get ahead quickly. Professional development is highly encouraged across the nonprofit community and support is given for continuous learning. Most important, the diversity of projects and experience working at a nonprofit is unsurpassed.
  2. Gain access to talented mentors and staff leaders. Employees at large for-profit institutions rarely get to interact with the top brass, but that is not the case at most nonprofits. The structures are often less hierarchical, with an open-door policy that pervades across departments and staff roles. The nonprofit’s emphasis on innovation allows for good ideas to be heard by staff in an open communication style.
  3. Blend passion, purpose and profession. Immerse yourself in a cause by identifying your passion and what gives you meaning. There are boundless options to apply your purpose at local nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises or corporate social responsibility programs. The key is to plan your own career trajectory. You want to go in with eyes wide open and be deliberate about both cause and culture fit, which accounts for 89 percent of an individual’s success in the job. (Research by Pathfinder Solutions).
  4. Change the world every day alongside interesting people. At a nonprofit, you will meet lots of purpose-driven people. These are individuals with big ideas, a passion for solving the world’s problems and creative instincts. You will work with volunteers who share their energy and time to support important causes. You will interact with community leaders and advocates from business, public and nonprofit sectors. You will open the door to a world of talented, mission-driven individuals.

No matter what your fields of interest, the nonprofit community offers a unique berth to a challenging and immensely fulfilling career. You will be in a position to communicate and work in a diverse industry, one which prizes your ability to mobilize beyond traditional boundaries and focus on the common good.

In my 39 years of working in the nonprofit sector, I have learned the real and tangible benefits that come through working in the industry. I hope you, too, can discover the opportunities that can be gained in this exciting and fast-growing sector. All you need to do is pick your cause and get involved. You won’t regret it!

– Michael T. Hughes is chief executive officer of A New Leaf in Mesa.

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