Last Updated May 5, 2011 7:26 PM EDT
Volunteer First A friend recently shared that after volunteering with a non-profit, working with at-risk kids, she was spontaneously offered a job. Just like interning can be worthwhile well after your undergraduate years, volunteering at your dream job can turn it into a paying gig. Charles Purdy, senior editor and career expert at Monster.com, agrees: "To land a non-profit job, you should start volunteering in the area you want a job in. That's a great way not only to build skills but also to network and learn about opportunities."
Focus Your Web Search
Most mainstream job search engines let you search specifically for non-profit positions. Monster.com has a special non-profit jobs section, in addition to providing the ability to search by keyword. There are also organizations such as Commongood Careers and Idealist.org that specialize in non-profit and other "do good" opportunities. And these aren't relegated to low-paying gigs -- executive positions are as much a priority as entry-level.
Take A Leap of Faith If you're just working to live and yearning instead to live to work, it might be worth thinking big. How
big? Medical and technical writer Mary Talalay recalls how she decided to leave a successful career in public relations at age 30. "I made a list of all of the things I wanted to do but had not yet achieved: becoming fluent in another language, living overseas, and traveling more for pleasure. I applied to the Peace Corps in January 1998 and was sent to Slovakia (the former Czechoslovakia). I was placed with the Ministry of Health...It was life changing," says Talalay.
Network Like Normal A job that helps people doesn't mean it's any less competitive than any other job -- in fact, it may be more so. So use your networking know-how, suggests Samantha Zupan of GlassDoor.com, which highlights non-profit jobs on their site: "For example, if there is a local 5K or 10k race in your community, hang out after the event and speak to the event organizers (or) visit the event's website to learn where event proceeds will go. Often times community events help fund non-profit agencies," says Zupan.