I will be graduating with my B.A. in December (at the age of 54) and looking for a job. All along my plan has been to work as a non-profit program manager or project manager. Now I'm not sure I'm qualified. If I'm not, what AM I qualified for, besides the soul-deadening bookkeeping that I've been doing?
posted by primate moon to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am graduating in December with my bachelor's in anthropology. It will have taken me 37 1/2 years to get my B.A. I will be beginning my job search in earnest in a couple months. My goal is to get a job as a non-profit program manager, hopefully in women's health, ideally in the field of pregnancy, birth, or post-partum. But I am flexible about the industry where I work.
I am afraid that, despite almost 40 years of working experience and my new B.A., I will not be qualified for this position, as I have had very little experience in that actual type of work. If I am not qualified, I need help trying to target the kind of job I can get but that is also challenging and meaningful to me.
My first 20+ years working were doing admin support, which I always hated, as it felt like I was just helping others do their more interesting, worthwhile work. Then 9 years ago I magically got a job as Membership Coordinator in a tiny non-profit in a field that I am passionate about. Because it was very small (only 4 of us in the office), and based on a non-hierarchical, consensus-based model, I was very involved in running the place, attending meetings where I had lots of input, strategic planning, web-development, Board creation, and everything else. The problem was that all this work was very informal; none of other employees came from any kind of business background, but were there because of their shared passion. In fact, we discovered that the organization had never been an actual 501(c)3 because of the lack of experience and resources of earlier directors. While I was there we were dedicated to gaining official non-profit status, as well as making a plan to begin to bring in funds (we were strictly fee-for-service and very, very poor). We all made this stuff up as we went, attending classes in board creation and management, e-commerce, and others, and doing all this stuff by the seat of our pants. There were too many obstacles, and the organization died in our hands. I had been there 3 years.
I spent the next 4 years grieving the loss and doing various bookkeeping and accounting temping. I was unable to find permanent work, and the temp jobs were hard to find, as well. I had several periods of unemployment, some very long. A year and a half ago I figured out a way to return to school, and that's what I've been doing since then.
I didn't even look for non-profit management jobs back then because I saw that a bachelors was necessary. Also, because of the unorthodox, make-it-up-as-you-go nature of our work at the non-profit I didn't think my experience there would seem valid. I didn't really learn the "rules" of what I did there so wouldn't be able to apply them at another organization.
I'm afraid I may have put a little too much faith in the power of my impending bachelors. I have been kind of thinking that a new bachelors plus almost 40 years of general business experience--very little of it actually in non-profits--would make me attractive to employers. But now I think I'm being naive.
Here's what I'm good at or love: I am super organized; I love collaborating; I love meetings and bouncing around ideas; I am great at taking those ideas and figuring out the practical aspects of how to make them real; I love getting up from that meeting table and going and making phone calls and getting online to get information and figure out logistics; I love taking chaos and putting it into order--spreadsheets, forms, etc.
I may love these things and be good at them, but it may not translate into measured, proven experience and outcomes. They're more like personality traits. So few of my jobs gave me the opportunity to use some of those skills.
I'm willing to use my bookkeeping/accounting skills in a job--perhaps as a foot in the door--but I'm terrified of getting stuck at a desk in the back, doing the numbers for everyone who's actually attending the meetings and brainstorming and doing stuff. And I DON'T want to do admin support in any way, even to get my foot in the door.
One thing that may help, but may not: I had an internship this past semester, where they have now contracted me as a paid consultant because they want me to continue to completion the main project I worked on. I used many of my above skills, and my boss LOVES me and offered strong positive references. But I was a student intern and there for only a few months--it will probably be a total of 9 months by the time I'm done. Will her reference be valuable to potential employers?
So, here's the crux: brand new bachelors + 20 yrs. admin experience + 3 yrs. weird non-profit experience + 4 years spotty bookkeeping & unemployment = non-profit program management?