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Mahatma Gandhi probably didn’t plan a career path to change the world. Jan Masaoka questions the utility of thinking in terms of paths ("a lot of it is sheer dumb luck"), but she dispenses good advice to help you along the way anyway, as she answers a host of audience questions.

Do degrees matter? Experience counts more than education, but degrees are often required in executive positions. MBAs, MPAs, and MNAs give you the greatest flexibility, while specialized degrees may give you an edge in specific fields (health care nonprofits may want their executive directors to be MDs).

How do I land my first job? Volunteer in organizations and positions that interest you, in fields that you care about. Talk about how you can help, not about what you want, or your skills, or what you have to offer. It’s not all about you.

How do I move up? Build a long (2-4 page) resume; one-page resumes work only in the corporate world. Create your own internships; don’t wait to be assigned something. Talk to your ED about what it takes to succeed. Start at small organizations and move on to bigger ones. Or, start in small positions in big organizations, move up, then move on to bigger positions in smaller organizations. Connecting with the right people matters a lot.

How much will I earn? Use resources such as Guidestar to see what people are earning in the fields and organizations you’re looking at. Know that if you’re switching from one field to another, or from the for-profit world to the nonprofit world, you’ll probably have to take a pay cut.

Jan also answers questions related to several other topics, such as how wages compare to those in corporations, which nonprofit fields are getting more funding (and which ones are not), when to start your own organization, and why nonprofits exist in the first place.

Jan Masaoka, named Nonprofit Executive of the Year in 2002, is a national speaker, consultant and leader in nonprofit strategy, boards of directors issues, executive leadership and nonprofit finance. She writes the Board Café (a newsletter with 44,000 subscribers), edited The Best of the Board Café, and contributed articles to the Stanford Social Innovation Review and the Nonprofit Quarterly. She is also the Founding President of the San Francisco Foundation Community Initiative Funds.

[Source: Social Innovation Conversations, intro by Leo Romero]

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