How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Nonprofit Career
Nonprofit professionals: I hear you. As a LinkedIn Career Expert, I spend a lot of time thinking about how every member of the global workforce can find the right opportunities for them, and I know that in your sector, the idea of career building sometimes comes with extra baggage. You care about your organization and its mission, so the thought of looking for opportunities elsewhere may leave you feeling conflicted—even a little guilty.
Those feelings are common, but if you’re ready for a change, they shouldn’t hold you back from finding a role that better matches your needs and goals. We spend so much of our lives at work. Whenever possible, we should aim to spend that time doing work that feels energizing and fulfilling, and that aligns with our personal values. If your current role doesn’t check all those boxes, it may be time to start exploring what else is out there—whether it’s a similar position at a nonprofit with a mission you’re more passionate about, a lateral move into a different department that interests you, or even a role outside of the nonprofit sector entirely (you can always come back later if you choose, and you’ll bring a fresh perspective when you do).
As the world’s largest professional platform, LinkedIn can help you not only find new opportunities, but also assess what you want from your next play, and your career as a whole. Here are a few ways to use the platform throughout your career journey.
1. Evaluate your current skills and what you need to make your next move
Often, people pursue opportunities that feel like a natural progression from where they are now. But if your current role has left you feeling burned out or you don’t find the day-to-day work fulfilling, that next rung on the ladder may not be right for you.
Instead, think about your career like a rock climbing wall. You can move up, sideways, or diagonally, depending on which path seems most appealing to you and which move will help you find your footing. Take some time to consider what aspects of your job give you energy and joy, what your personal mission in life is, and what activities you excel at, then use these factors to guide your career exploration.
When you have a sense of what you want to do next, use LinkedIn Skill Assessments to determine how well your current skills map to the new role, and what skills you’ll need to focus on developing. After you take an assessment, it will unlock relevant LinkedIn Learning courses that you can take to help you bridge the gap. You can also take self-directed actions like seeking out stretch assignments at work, reading articles about how to transition into the new field, or exploring the full LinkedIn Learning course catalog for yourself.
2. Network to gain insights and discover new opportunities
When you’re thinking about making your next play, your network is one of the most valuable tools at your disposal. This is especially true if you’re considering making a sector jump or a radical career pivot. Speaking to people who work in your desired industry or role is an important step in ensuring the move is right for you and helping you understand how your unique skills and experiences can help solve a prospective employer’s challenges, so seek out informational interviews with friends and connections whenever possible.
The people you speak to will often point you to other professionals you should speak to, helping you expand your network. And by letting these connections know that you’re passionate about joining their sector or field, you can enlist them in your job hunt, meaning you’ll have more people looking out for opportunities for you. You might find they forward you job posts that make them think of you. In some cases, they may even refer you if the right role opens up at their organization.
3. Give your LinkedIn profile a thoughtful makeover
Before you begin applying to new positions, evaluate your LinkedIn profile and ensure it’s working in your favor. First things first, if you don’t have a profile picture, add one: LinkedIn data shows that members with a photo receive 21 times more profile views and nine times more connection requests than members without one. Choose a picture that’s approachable and professional, and ideally one in which you’re wearing the type of outfit you might wear to an interview for your desired role.
Next, review the summary section below your picture. This is your opportunity to tell your story, so share details about your career journey so far, the impact you’ve made, and the values that drive you. At the same time, be mindful of what a recruiter sourcing for the type of role you want will look for on a candidate’s profile and try to weave in relevant keywords, without it feeling forced. This will improve the likelihood that they’ll find your profile organically, and that they’ll be impressed when they do.
If you haven’t updated your profile in a while, make sure it’s up to date and that you’re taking every opportunity to bring your story to life. Have you included all your work and volunteer experience? Are there videos or articles about key initiatives you’ve worked on that you could link in the “Featured” section? Even the smallest detail can make your profile stand out from the crowd.
4. Set job alerts to speed up your search and consider letting recruiters know you’re looking
If you’re currently working a full-time job, finding time to search for the right opportunities can be a challenge. If you haven’t used them already, let me introduce you to your secret weapon on LinkedIn: job alerts. Let LinkedIn know what kind of roles you’re looking for and where, and the algorithm will continue to track down opportunities that match your interests while you’re at work, making dinner, or even sleeping. You’ll get an alert sent directly to your inbox when great roles open up, making it easier to be an early applicant—and get recruiters’ attention.
Depending on your comfort level, you could also turn on the “Open to Work” feature on your profile, letting recruiters know what kind of roles you’re looking for, or add the #OpenToWork photo frame to your profile picture. LinkedIn data shows that job seekers who use this photo frame receive, on average, 40% more InMails (direct messages on LinkedIn) from recruiters. They’re also 20% more likely to receive messages from the LinkedIn community—like notes from connections who know of opportunities you might be interested in.
Find your next great career move on LinkedIn
You work hard, and you deserve an opportunity that meets your needs, as well as the needs of the community you want to serve. From job alerts to unlocked LinkedIn Learning content, LinkedIn offers a range of free features and resources that can help you find it. And don’t internalize that immediate trepidation about finding your next play; there are lots of opportunities to find work that aligns with your values. Roles change—missions don’t. Or at least, they don’t have to! Good luck on your job search—and with your next play.