According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Baby Boomers held an average of 11 jobs from the ages of 18-44—and the trend continues with their children, members of Generation Flux. The BLS also estimates that Boomers experienced an average of over five periods of unemployment during those years. In today’s economy, for all generations, one can only imagine the likelihood of more job changes and perhaps even more frequent interregna.
As I work in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, people frequently ask me how to make career transitions from the business world to the nonprofit world and vice versa. For those of us who anticipate many years of working and actually relish opportunities for learning and variety, my advice is to always be preparing for your next job. Here are my recommendations.
- Consider skills that will make you valuable in most jobs and careers: communications, leadership, crisis management, and accountability, just to name a few.
- Consider substantive issues that are most relevant in business, government, and the nonprofit sectors—globally, nationally, and regionally. These include the environment and conservation, energy and renewable resources, economic development, health care, education, poverty, and housing, among others.
Here are ways to continuously develop yourself in these areas:
- Volunteer. Consider skills-based volunteering, and nonprofit board service. Just be certain to choose issues and organizations where you are eager to participate productively.
- Attend conferences. While there, be ambitious in learning and meeting people. Also, consider opportunities to speak on panels or lead breakout sessions, so that you are contributing your particular expertise, while you are learning from others in areas you wish to expand.
- Engage in social media. Blogging for the past four years, and tweeting for three has been an extraordinary learning experience for me. Blogging creates a new awareness, in addition to involving research and interviews. Tweeting can involve you in networks with people who share a variety of your interests; you’re among people who provide each other with curated reading lists. Additionally, many people whom I’ve met via blogging and Twitter have become professional colleagues and personal friends.
- Read. Several particularly relevant books connecting business and the nonprofit sectors include: Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green; Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference, by Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson, reviewed here; Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World, by Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell, reviewed here; Mighty Be Our Powers, by Leymah Gbowee, discussed here; Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, by David Bornstein and Susan Davis, written about here; and my book, Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses.
- Enroll in courses and educational programs.
Commit yourself to lifelong learning and you’ll be prepared for that next job, as well as the decisions you’ll need to make about which job to take. It’s all about the adventure.
[Image: Flickr user Omair Haq]