Job Possibilities for Career Changer - Non Profit/NGO Edition
August 13, 2021 8:53 AM   Subscribe

My wife is beginning the start of exploring new jobs and hoping to help her brainstorm ideas. She's had basically a very different two part career- Five years as an attorney in litigation and five years as a office/executive assistant while getting her MFA in writing. These jobs would ideally be in DC, and she would be fine starting with someone very early career (1-2 years out of school). What are some job options for her to start researching?

Her wants are supporting some type of non-corporate mission, a decent work-life balance (we just had a baby), a sufficient salary to have full time day care make sense in DC (~$50k/yr, ok with all take home to go to daycare). She's done some grant writing and development in the past and she has somewhat seemed that is the way she's looking to get into formally, but thinking there are other types of jobs.

Her skills are really in writing and research (and great at talking to people, if that matters). She's barred in NY and SC if that helps at all (not looking to work as an attorney though)
posted by sandmanwv to Work & Money (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Oh gosh, it seems like Idealist has a ton (like, a TON) of non-profit jobs fitting those requirements in the DC area. Development particularly is a huge need.

If she's open to some retraining on her own schedule, the need for privacy professionals is growing (including in the non-profit sector) and a JD can only help. Look at certifications, probably the CIPM.
posted by humbug at 9:02 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I work in nonprofit development. I agree that is a good entry point, with her having done some grant writing and development in the past. The "decent work-life balance" part can be tough, depending on the nonprofit. If she is more research and writing focused, I would try to zero in on more "development operations" types of roles that may have a greater share of writing and prospect researching, as opposed to gift officer roles that may require more travel and less predictable schedules.

Another thing that comes to mind is that often in nonprofits there can be a gray area between the development office and what would be more straightforward "contracting" with either clients or funders who are not donors (government agencies, partnerships with other NGOs, etc.). Not that it is necessarily her expertise, but bringing more of a legal mindset to contract negotiation and management is an asset that would be highly valued as well.

Also, as pointed out, there are so many types of NGOs out there, that it would be good for her to think about it in terms of what issue areas or causes she would be interested in engaging in.
posted by AndrewInDC at 9:34 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Best answer: check your DMs
posted by mccxxiii at 9:40 AM on August 13

She’d be a good candidate for fundraising, but she could also be program staff at a legal nonprofit. Just search Idealist for the word “program” to see what kinds of things are available.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:41 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]

Working as a rights manager in university publishing could be an option. She might watch for jobs here.
posted by a sourceless light at 9:52 AM on August 13

The head of grants management at my previous employer, (big-name international foundation), was a former litigator who transitioned into development and operations. She was an excellent writer, great at talking to people and overseeing process, and had responsibility for the management of what are essentially contracts (with internal and external reporting requirements) with grantees.
posted by minervous at 10:00 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

In-house legal counsel at a larger non-profit seems like it would be a good fit, especially as a lot of these kinds of positions can lead to advancement up the executive ranks. It would be a way to get her foot in the door and then use her writing skills to expand the scope of her work and showcase her other talents.
posted by sardonyx at 10:04 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

This may be off the beam, but it seems to me that there should be an opportunity for her to use her skills as both a writer and an attorney to simplify legalese. Of course, a political science professor once told me simplification of legal language is not the goal of or in the best interests of either politics or law. But I can imagine there would be a huge market for it. In fact, a few years ago, I posted a question here wondering if there existed software that could simplify legalese. A commenter told me some linguistics graduate students had created and patented such software. He said it was purchased by a law conglomerate, and then, buried. Don't know how true that is, but all these years later, privacy policies and user agreements don't seem any easier to understand.
posted by CollectiveMind at 10:12 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

Is there a reason she isn't considering government work? Tons of DC jobs and usually tends to be better work-life balance. Sounds like any kind of policy work might be a good match for her.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

Law firm management. A writer with a law degree willing to work for $50K in DC? Golden. Marketing, recruitment, running internal training programs, responding to RFPs for government work. Not MFA exciting but completely doable.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 7:19 PM on August 13

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