I work for a public tech company. But I didn’t study HTML or apprentice myself to slick corporate consultants. In fact, I was a business-major-turned-third-grade-teacher, and then spent three illuminating years at an education nonprofit. That was what got me where I am.
How so? It accelerated my learning about how to contribute in organizations. And about myself. The nonprofit sector uniquely compels young people to make strategic decisions, and learn by trying. I started as a fundraiser and then led marketing at a small-but-growing nonprofit. I was 24 and had no clue what I was doing. But I got to – I had to – figure it out.
Experience is the best teacher.
As I did so, I was forced to think creatively. We couldn’t just throw money at stuff. Instead of big ad buys, we got the media to tell the stories of our low-income students. Innovating because you have to is great preparation for any future job. Ever seen a list of the ‘Top Companies Maintaining the Status Quo?’
I also benefited from great managers. These professional sherpas are precious, and I’ve found that they’re more indigenous to nonprofits.