Studying for an LSE degree, MSc or PhD can be a transformational process. This is particularly true for our postgrads who have selected their particular master’s as a catalyst to change career direction towards the not-for-profit sector. When considering such a move it can helpful to think about it as a campaign rather than a simple transactional switch. There are many factors to consider, so here are 10 tips to guide your progress:

  1. Purpose. It’s important to define your purpose. What attracts you to the sector? What are you most interested in? What functions are you considering?
  2. Research. Look more widely at both the different roles in not-for-profits and the different types of organisation. There are many questions to consider such as: big versus small; what issues you feel most strongly about (eg. education, children, environment); and which not-for-profit’s missions align most closely with your own.
  3. Realism. Saving the world is an impressive aspiration but it won’t get you a job. Not-for-profits need your value proposition more than your statement of values. There will be less structure, salaries will be lower and opportunities for personal development will be more a case of learning from doing rather than formal training.
  4. Sell the benefits. Professional skills developed in corporate world such as finance, accounting, social media, human resources, IT and research skills are in great demand – be careful not to underplay obvious strengths. Always think about the needs of the not-for-profits first and you are more likely to be invited for interview.
  5. Network, network, network. It’s crucial you network widely to develop new contacts in your new sector. Share generously with your growing network through social media and leverage all that LSE has to offer.
  6. Be flexible. Career change can involve significant compromise; this might be around pay, or taking what seems a backward step to gain access to your new sector. See it as a long game. Stay true to your mission and keep the forward momentum going.
  7. Support. Career change can be challenging. Enlist the support of friends, family, colleagues, career consultants and tutors. Looking into getting a mentor or reaching out to alumni are good ways of helping to keep you motivated and on track.
  8. Live your new brand. The person you have to convince more than anyone else that the move is the right one is YOU. You have to be your own advocate. You must look at your marketing strategy (LinkedIn, CVs, cover letters,) and be ready to pitch yourself for any opportunities that come your way.
  9. Take the plunge. It doesn’t need to be a big splash! It could be just the decision to volunteer, become a trustee, sign up to a relevant course, do a micro-internship, work shadow or reach out to alum. Small actions add up to big change.
  10. Review progress regularly. It’s a long but very satisfying path you have set yourself. Check in with your network, mentors and friends regularly to review progress and redefine your goals. Stick with it and you’ll get there.
Interested in finding out more about working in development, with international organisations and NGOs? Explore our employment sector pages for each and get in touch with the LSE Volunteer Centre.
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