How do I convince corporate America that this nonprofit guy is a star in waiting?
August 11, 2005 11:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I convince a corporate VP that my nonprofit skills are completely transferrable for the job for which I have a phone interview Friday?

I've done nonprofit communications for nine years of my 14-year career, including the last six. I've had some corporate bites over the last year, but nothing great. On Friday I'm talking with a corporate VP on the phone for a PR manager's job. How do I let her know that the skill set I've built will be an incredible asset for her company?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Talk about your experience in business terms. Refer to the project you worked on in terms of campaigns with goals and results -- you were raising money, awareness or an issue, etc. Talk about how you met or exceeded the goals.

Your question is already using words like "skillset" and "asset" so you're probably on your way. Getting a phone interview with the hiring manager manager mean's they're interested in you.

Communication jobs are about persuasion. If you're good at what you do for the non-profit, you should be able to demonstrate how you'd do for a for-profit.
posted by birdherder at 1:55 AM on August 12, 2005

Great advice from birdherder. Focus on your record of concrete success, and on commonality on the basic mission, and do so with language and attitude that indicates that you've got the head and heart for business.

However, here's some levening: some people just can never be persuaded that someone looking to switch industries has transferable skills, or will be a cultural fit. Sometimes these people are stupid, and sometimes they're gunshy because in the past they were conned into hiring a slick talker who really didn't have transferable skills or cultural adaptability. Don't lose heart, or abandon your efforts to move, if it happens that you run into one of those people today -- most people are more open-minded than that.

Here's advice that some people might disagree with, but is worth considering. If you're asked an open-ended question about your motives in moving to the private sector, feel free to include "making more money" as one of the reasons why. One of the biggest fears about non-profit people is that they think money making is bad, and, hence, won't be effective in the private sector which is, after all, organized for the purpose of making money, and which extracts top performance from employees principally by holding out the hopes of big raises and bonuses before them.
posted by MattD at 6:00 AM on August 12, 2005

Quantify your accomplishments as much as possible. Re-frame your experience in analogous-to-for-profit ways.

Wouldn't hurt to throw in an aside about how, in order to be efficient, non-profits have to run like for-profits "these days" -- while all of us who work in non-profits might roll our eyes a little at that cliche, it does help alieviate the bias against the "can screw around and not get the bottom line taken care of" bias that for-profits sometimes can have against non-profits.

Also, what MattD said.
posted by desuetude at 6:30 AM on August 12, 2005

MattD is right. People in the private sector know that non-profit wages suck and appreciate someone who is driven, knows what they want, and will make a change to get it. That's a private sector mentality. Also, concentrate on your soft skills- Problem Solving, Communication, Teamwork, and the like. These are truly transferable skills, some of your non-profit specific skills might be harder to sell.
posted by pissfactory at 6:56 AM on August 12, 2005

Find out (or surmise) what the interviewer's/employer's goals are. Tell them how your skills can help them meet those goals.
posted by winston at 8:26 AM on August 12, 2005

Speed. You have to overcome the perception, sometimes reality, that the nonprofit world moves at a much slower pace than forprofit. Focus on your projects that had a short turn around time with a positive result.

The other tact I'd try is to have the corporate donors who work with your nonprofit call the company you're interviewing with to recommend you. That's a good way to bridge the gap.
posted by IndigoSkye at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2005

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