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This guest post comes from Alexandra Mitchell and Jeff Pryor. They are the founders of the nonprofit research and advisory firm, Pathfinder Solutions, and are the co-authors of Compassionate Careers: Making a Living by Making a Difference, a dynamic inspirational guide to help anyone and everyone channel their passions into successful cause-focused work.

We need to refresh the face of civil society, by drawing talent—young talent—into the nonprofit sector. As Desmond Tutu says, “If we don’t refresh the face of civil society, we won’t have a civil society!”

Members of the millennial generation have eclipsed the Baby Boomer generation in terms of size and job market saturation. This huge demographic shift is no longer hypothetical. The inevitable talent wars are upon us and consequences of not paying attention are grim. To secure talent, we must recruit, develop, and retain young people in new ways! Here are some important “To Do’s” for our field:

Connect Across the Community to Raise Awareness

Young people are interested in meaningful careers, but don’t understand the field and are exceedingly hesitant about these jobs. It’s not just the Independent Sector, it’s the Invisible Sector because family members, teachers and counselors don’t mention, understand, or value careers in the field. In a broad study we conducted with nearly 2,500 nonprofit and foundation professionals, just 4 percent said that anyone had every mentioned this field to them as a viable career option. In another study that involved thousands of young people, 25% couldn’t name a single nonprofit. (What are we, chopped liver?)

Put Sexy Into the Sector

We need to build the appeal of the sector and get the word out that a lot of these jobs are actually really cool. Our research finds that 95% of the nonprofit workers we surveyed say they are proud of what they do, that they find their work meaningful and fulfilling, and 98% say there jobs have a positive impact on the cause and community they serve. How many other fields can claim this level of job satisfaction? This is a field where people can blend their passion, purpose, and a profession. Let’s promote #TheJoyOfPurpose!

What’s With the Lack of Career Advancement?  

We understand that young people are less loyal to particular job destinations, but if we want our people to rise to the top, we need to encourage them to stop thinking of a nonprofit jobs as just a stepping stone—not a “real job.” If 76% of people in the field (according to our survey with 2,500 respondents) say that advancement opportunities are NOT obvious, that’s a problem, right? (Career ladders. What career ladder?) It’s our job as leaders of the field and human resource specialists to put 2 and 2 together and make 5. “If you want something new, you need to stop doing something old,” says leadership guru Peter Drucker.

Culture Fit is Critical

Finding the right culture fit is critical. It’s far more important than all that logistical paper work. In fact, culture fit accounts for 89% of a person’s success at work. Working with people who inspire and motivate you to be your best, both personally and professionally, is priceless. To find about more about what drives your own work style and how you work best with others, take this 10-minute (or so) culture assessment, developed by our friends and colleagues at RoundPegg. For more information about conducting a culture assessment across teams or your whole organization, and getting analysis of results with advice about how people can work better together, click here.

You Might Call It Flex-Appeal

Up to 45% of millennials rank flexibility as a more important factor in a job than pay, meaning that even if your organization can’t compete with for-profit employers in terms of pay, having a more flexible work environment will help you draw in talent that in previous generations would have been out of reach. The organization 1 Million for Work Flexibility is a membership-based nonprofit that is attempting to usher in an era of flexibility in the workforce.

The Long and The Short of It

We need to raise awareness and do all we can to make compassionate careers appealing, especially to the next generation. Ultimately, our vision is for people from all walks of life to find joy in their work and feel empowered to create the world they want to live in!

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