One Thing I Wish I Knew Before … Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector

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These days, there is plenty of talk in the nonprofit sector about mentorship, personal advisory boards, and professional development. But at Idealist Careers, we understand that not everyone has access to a cracker jack team of career cheerleaders and sadly, many of us have to navigate our professional path without our own social-impact Yoda.

So without further ado, let’s tackle our next topic in our “One Thing I Wish I Knew Before …” series:

One thing I wish I knew before transitioning to the nonprofit sector

We asked our community of nonprofit professionals to share one thing they wish they knew before making the professional switch into the nonprofit sector. Here’s what two Idealists had to say:

“The focus on mission over money was a huge and positive adjustment for me, and what followed was a sense of meaning and purpose in my daily work. I already knew that nonprofits typically pay less in wages, but the upside can be dramatic: greater flexibility, like-hearted colleagues, palpable improvements in personal wellness, lifestyle, and work-life balance. How can you put a value on less stress and toxicity, more predictable work hours, time for personal interests, and an overall healthier mind and body?

“There is great power and nourishment in working toward something meaningful that is larger than our own individual lives. Of course it’s not all roses all the time, but when your work feels in sync with your values, it adds joy and peacefulness to your life.” ~ Anonymous Idealist

“I wish I would have known what this was all about much sooner! It really is a significant sector with many opportunities to do something good while still enjoying a good salary and benefits. The stereotype that all nonprofit work is volunteer or has very low pay simply isn’t always true.” ~ Bradley Michelson, Director of Business Development,

What’s one thing you wish you knew before you transitioned to the nonprofit sector? Share in the comments below!


Is there a “One Thing I Wish I Knew Before…” nugget of knowledge you’re itching to know? Tell us what we should ask our community of social-impact professionals, job seekers, leaders, and nonprofit superstars. Post in the comments or email us at


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As a seasoned communications professional with 15 years of nonprofit experience and 6 years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.
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    • Jo Barber
    • October 28, 2018

    I worked for one of the biggest UK charities. What I didn’t realise before I joined was how supporter focused they were – to the extent that if an employee (me) asked for help with professional qualifications, the answer would be “oh we can’t, what if the supporters found out!”

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