DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Demystifying the Nonprofit Job Search

By: Jen Fleming, Education, Nonprofit & Government Career Community Advisor

As the career advisor for the Education, Nonprofit, & Government Career Community, I meet with students who are interested in exploring, volunteering, interning, and working in these career areas.

I’ve noticed students find it hard to picture what working in the nonprofit industry looks like. Because of this, the job search process can feel a bit elusive. I’ve collected best practices for job searching within the nonprofit industry to help make the process easier to navigate.

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  • Which role is the best fit for your interests?
    • Some of the broader areas of nonprofit work to consider include development, fundraising, outreach, programming, and leadership.
    • One important question to ask is if you see yourself in a ‘front facing’ position (programming, outreach, counseling, instructing etc.) or in an administrative position (leadership, development, etc.)
  • Do you support the mission?
    • Do you want to spend your time supporting education in underserved neighborhoods, advocating for homeless youth, or legal support for immigrants? Explore your values and interests then narrow your search by finding nonprofits with missions that align with them.

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Experiences to Highlight in Your Resume & Cover Letter

  • Resume: Make sure to include volunteer experience to show your interest and willingness to help those around you. This directly relates to nonprofit work.
  • Cover Letter: Highlight related experiences you have had that are tied to the mission.
    • For example, choosing to attend DePaul because of our Vincentian values, being involved in certain student groups that align with these values, volunteering etc.
    • Make sure to discuss how the nonprofit’s mission and values resonate with you and your experiences.
  • Be sure to tie in personal experiences that align with the population that the nonprofit serves if you have them.
    • For example, if you are a first generation college student and the nonprofit supports that population, make sure to highlight this in your cover letter.

Best Practices in Job Searching

  • Networking is one of the most powerful job search tools. Many students inquire where to network—my answer is everywhere! One obvious starting place is utilizing the DePaul ASK Network to do informational interviews and get job shadowing experience. There are a ton of ASK mentors that work in the nonprofit industry!
  • Volunteering is a great way to learn more about an organization, start to build relationships with professionals, and get relevant experience on your resume.
  • Participating in job fairs and having conversations with recruiters is also an important aspect of your job search.
  • Attending relevant events can lead to the most organic type of networking, allowing you the opportunity to meet and connect with like-minded people.


  • Idealist Career Advice
    • Find nonprofit career advice on a variety of topics.
  • GreatNonprofits
    • A directory of nonprofit organizations to help identify job search targets. The website includes a wide variety of topic filters to search by (e.g. children and youth, immigration, mental health).
  • Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPP)- Chicago
    • Consider joining a professional organization to attend events, network, and receive relevant professional development.
    • A nonprofit job board. Search for nonprofit positions by key word terms.
  • Handshake
    • DePaul’s exclusive career platform. Use the filter function to search by industry and/or job function to find openings at nonprofit organizations.
  • Idealist
    • A nonprofit job board. Search for jobs, internships and volunteer work by job function or issue area.


The Career Center will support you in a variety of ways including connecting you with employers through networking events and job fairs as well as providing individual career advising. Many students visit us for mock interview practice, feedback on resume and cover letter writing, and to ask questions on how to navigate the job search process or discuss how their interests, values, skills, and personality fit into the type of career they want.

Schedule a career advising appointment on Handshake today!

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