New Beginnings. New Career Moves. Taking the Leap: Nonprofit to Corporate
Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:45 NKJV
The Back Story…
To be completely honest, I did not plan to start my career in nonprofit. In fact, as a new graduate, working for a nonprofit organization didn’t even cross my mind.
It was completely happenstance.
It had been a year since I graduated with my BBA in marketing and I still hadn’t managed to land a job in my field of study. However, I was determined— just check the 100+ versions of my resume and cover letter that I customized for each job I applied for. I just kept telling myself, “walk by faith, not by sight.” So, there I was one random evening, watching a sermon on YouTube. The message was about giving back and finding something to invest your time in that was bigger than yourself.
Right then and there I thought about something I was passionate about, found an organization, and reached out to the volunteer coordinator. I let them know what program I was interested in volunteering for and then threw in the fact that I had recently graduated with a degree in marketing and would be happy to volunteer in their marketing department.
So, after a year of receiving rejection email after rejection email (i.e. thanks but no thanks), a volunteer gig of less than a month became a part-time job, which then became a full-time job with benefits in less than two months. I would then go from being the marketing assistant to the marketing manager (a position that didn’t exist prior to me) within just a few years.
God is good.
Comfort vs. Challenge
I’ll say it again, because it can never be said enough.
God is good.
God is also intentional.
I never thought I would begin my marketing career at a nonprofit organization…and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I was challenged in more ways than any large corporation could have challenged me. I was not only the marketing assistant turned marketing manager…I was the marketing DEPARTMENT. Therefore, I had to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. I was the brand marketer, the content creator, the social media maven, the PR agent, the website manager, the event planner, video producer, and any and everything that could possibly be considered marketing and communications. It was tough. I had to create content for diverse audiences- potential donors, corporations and foundations, teens (youth development organization), parents, and volunteers.
I said all of that to say that God put me in a place that forced me to grow, adapt, and step up to the plate even when I felt unqualified. In less than six months on the job, I was helping coordinate and execute an event with a past president as the guest speaker, an NFL hall-of-famer as the honoree, and table sponsors that surpassed my salary. Here I was a first-generation college graduate from east Texas, who didn’t even know which fork was for the salad and which was for the entree.
The Decision to Leap
After several years with this organization, I could’t help but feel as though I hit a ceiling. I was already doing everything, so at this point the only thing that would change is my title. There was no sign of growth in the marketing department and I was no longer learning or being challenged. Sure, I had job security, but I could never be comfortable with being complacent.
So, how did I successfully transition from a local nonprofit organization to a global Fortune 500 corporation?
I knew what I wanted and why. Knowing this allowed me to keep my eye on the prize and not settle for something simply because it was available. I was looking for a place with a healthy culture, plenty of room for growth and opportunities for me to sharpen my skill set. With this in mind, I did not waste my time applying for any and every job.
I vocalized my intention with people in my network that I trusted and who also have influence. The best decision I made was to share with my mentor my desire to make a career move. We immediately came up with a game plan. Not only did she hold me accountable, but she opened up her network to me. Now to whom much is given, much is required. She may have made the initial connection, but it was up to me to follow-through and follow-up. I didn’t take this opportunity for granted. We’ll talk more about the importance of mentors later.
I did not focus on the title. Even though I was the marketing and communications manager at the nonprofit, I didn’t limit myself to only looking for management-level jobs. This is not say I was willing to accept entry-level. However, I was not going pass up a great opportunity because of my pride.
I did not let rejection diminish my faith or slow down my hustle. In prior years, I would get so frustrated and discouraged during the job search process. I would go on interview after interview and just when I thought I had it in the bag, I would get the email or the call stating they decided to go in another direction. Each time, I felt more and more defeated. However, this time around, I had renewed my mindset. I made up in my mind, either I’m going to trust God or I’m not. So, if a door closed, then it wasn’t my door to begin with. I realized God was working on my patience (which is not typically my virtue). I had to learn to trust Him during the waiting process, the in-between blessings process.
I stopped down-playing my gifts and talent. I allowed myself to think and believe bigger. Initially, I thought there’s no way I can go from a nonprofit to a large corporation. I’m better off trying to get into a mid-sized, regional company and working my way up to a global organization. Then God was like, “Nah, bigger.” So, when I saw the the job posting, I decided to go for it. I updated my resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. I applied. I prayed. I thanked God in advance for this opportunity. I moved on. A month or two later, I received an email to schedule a phone interview.
I over-prepared every step of the way. Just like an athlete trains for a big game, I prepare for my interviews…I’ll go into more details about this in a future blog.