Today, there is a wealth of data around the digital natives of Generation Z and their impact on the workplace, considering the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a generation-defining moment. As an essential part of the workforce today, the aspiring changemakers of this generation will be the architects of the 21st-century workplace, and Nonprofit HR is proud to make space for these budding professionals as fellows and interns.
Specifically, the firm provides opportunities to mission-driven college students looking to gain experience working with the social impact sector as well as engage in professional development and mentorship. These new team members not only learn about the work that we do, but also help inform it. As a member of the Gen Z generational cohort, previous intern and now full-time team member, I am proud to be part of a workplace that embodies its core values and understands that the unique experiences and stories of my generation adds value in the work of shaping more motivated, engaged and thriving workforces.
In this four-part series, I sit down with four recent Nonprofit HR fellows to discuss their academic work, what drew them to Nonprofit HR, their fellowship experience with the firm, as well as their passions and future aspirations.
Amy is a senior at Rice University studying Environmental Science and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. As a Client Services Fellow with the firm, she starts off her day with with her Nonprofit HR tasks and attends class in the afternoons. “I’ve worked with nonprofits before and I wanted to explore different social impact careers, which is why Nonprofit HR really stood out to me,” she said. The company culture and those she interacted with during the application process, she noted, were factors that also attracted her to this opportunity. “I really enjoy the idea of working with lots of different types of people and learning a lot of new skills, and that’s something Nonprofit HR has really been able to give me.”
Outside of work and school, Amy’s favorite thing is being outdoors and traveling. “Going to national parks is something I really like to do. I’m definitely an explorer, so I’m trying to make it my goal to explore as many places as I can and explore different kinds of food,” she said. This summer, she looks forward to traveling Europe for a senior trip with her friends and then to Madagascar to do research with Rice’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. Her friends, she said, are also the people that she admires the most, because of their passion. “They’ve gotten through a lot of difficult circumstances, so I really admire their passion and tenacity.”
A recent Nonprofit HR project she enjoyed was reaching out to previous clients and asking for feedback on how the firm can improve its services. “I got to interact with the clients directly and also work with people within Nonprofit HR as well through that project, so I thought that was really interesting.”
“Everyone that I’ve worked with has honestly been really supportive and thankful for the work that I do, so that’s something I’d like to keep with me and look for in any future roles that I have.”
Reflecting on her experience, Amy noted that she learned a lot about herself with regard to balancing work and school as well as learning how to fit in with a company culture remotely. “Something else Nonprofit HR has definitely taught me is to look for a really supportive environment, like the one the firm has. My mentors are really awesome, they frequently check in with me. Everyone that I’ve worked with has honestly been really supportive and thankful for the work that I do, so that’s something I’d like to keep with me and look for in any future roles that I have.” Amy worked closely with Ghalila Pietros, Project Manager, in her role, and mentioned how supportive Ghalila has been as a mentor. “I feel like I can really open up to her and talk about whatever I need, whether that’s work related or not. I really value that open communication in our mentor-mentee relationship,” she said. Amy also shared how her time at Nonprofit HR has given her a better understanding of the benefits of mentorship. “I think I’m really understanding more of the importance of having really strong connections to mentors that you can learn from and being intentional about it.”
Following her undergraduate studies, Amy seeks to explore. She is spending a gap year in Australia and has also planned a fellowship year at AmeriCorps before attending graduate school. “My priorities will definitely be around traveling, exploring and figuring out what I really want to hone in on to study further and the focus for my career goals.”
Her advice to future fellows and interns?
“Communication is key in making sure that you have a relationship with the people that you work with where you don’t feel pressure to say yes to everything. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to communicate about what else is going on in your life and not overload yourself.”
Avyan is a senior at Concordia College studying Political Science and Global Studies with an Interfaith minor. Her typical day starts and ends with Nonprofit HR work, with one class in between. As a fellow within the firm’s DEI practice, her studies and work are connected in the aspects of learning about other backgrounds and perspectives. “It’s about understanding not only the academia knowledge behind DEI work but also how to put it in perspective in the real world and how you help your clients and also, the people in the social impact sector, various organizations and companies in the United States,” she said. Having done DEI work in previous positions, Avyan noted that the different kinds of organizations the firm works with was one of the things that attracted her to this opportunity. “I’ve worked in corporate DEI work, government and now, nonprofits. So that was a crucial part for me to learn more about it when it came to this work as well as knowing that I wanted to pursue it in the future as well,” she said.
Outside of work and school, Avyan is an avid weightlifter and rollerblader. She also loves to travel to get to know different people from different backgrounds. “Understanding their life experiences is something that I love because reading it from a book all my life is so different from actually going to that country and really talking to those people about the struggles that they’ve dealt with. So I really treasure that,” she said. In the spirit of learning others’ life experiences, Avyan shared that the people she admires most are those who challenge her viewpoint and perspective. “You can’t attain openness without being challenged and understanding a different way to think,” she said. Additionally, she noted she admires women, specifically women of color, who break barriers because “it’s always admirable to see someone in a position that you want to be in one day that looks like you.”
“…I love what Nonprofit HR gave me, it gave me a great team, a great supervisor and a great mentor.”
Avyan hopes to continue to travel after her time at the firm. She has recently become a Fulbright Scholar and following graduation will be traveling to Kosovo to do international development work to understand international human rights as a whole before returning to the U.S. for graduate school. “I need to see new things, meet new people and experience truly what I want before settling down somewhere because you have your entire life to settle down. But I love what Nonprofit HR gave me, it gave me a great team, a great supervisor and a great mentor,” she said.
As a whole, she shared how much she values the professional advice she receives from those mentor relationships and the importance of connecting with those that she may want to be one day. “I have had a lot of mentors growing up, but I never knew that they were mentors until someone labeled it as, ‘Oh, Avyan, you love to network.’ I always thought of it as just being social. A lot of these people in my life I kept connecting with over the years because they’ve become more of my friends now. Even though they are older, they have a lot of life experiences that I cherish,” she said.
Her favorite quote?
“Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big. But remember, dreams without goals are just dreams, and they ultimately fuel disappointment. So have dreams, but have goals. Life goals, yearly goals, monthly, daily goals. I try to give myself a goal everyday.”
Her advice to future fellows and interns?
“Be very clear with the other priorities you have in your life when it comes to school, work as well as your personal life too. At the end of the day, you are a human being and you should be treated as one. You’re not a robot. I say this for any organization or company because you deserve to live your life and not look back on your life and regret the things you didn’t do.”
Nora is a senior at Duke University double majoring in Public Policy and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, and a Fellow on the firm’s DEI practice. She balances her school and coursework by focusing on her Nonprofit HR work on days where she doesn’t have class, primarily Thursdays and Fridays, and completes her school work on the weekends. Nora also does research on diversity and identity in her school’s social psychology lab. Her interests in multi-racial identity specifically and the opportunity to apply her research is what has driven her to the firm and this role. “In the DEI practice at Nonprofit HR, we’re actually applying research on systems theory or how to actually change behavior, which I find really fascinating because it connects to my social psychology research.”
Nora expressed that her personal identification with her research is what drives her passion. “Discussion around multi-racial people is often around those who are half white, half minority, and I’m not that. I’m a dual minority, so I can’t relate to any books that have been written about being multi-racial, both fiction and nonfiction. I really want to write about that and bring more nuance to the discussion of multi-racial identity because it feels dominated by people who are not dual minorities like myself. Also, I’m interested in research around China and North African relations, because that’s my identity—I am Taiwanese and Moroccan,” she said. Nora shared that her father is from Morocco, pursued his education in the United States and became an Arabic professor. He is the person she admires the most. “[He] really instilled in me and my brother that our education is incredibly important, which is why I’ve done a lot at Duke and research in particular. I admire my dad because he’s an amazing person, but also for his ability to make connections with people in the work that he does… I want to be like my dad in the future,” she said.
“I want to do public interest work and that’s why I really love Nonprofit HR. The end goal, at least in the DEI practice, is to just make people’s experiences at work better. I might not necessarily be HR focused or DEI focused, but I ensure that whatever I do in the future, the end goal of my work is that people are living better lives.”
Through this experience, Nora has learned that having work aligned with her values and passions is important to her. She also shared the most fulfilling Nonprofit HR project she’s worked on was with a client whose mission was around school reform, a mission that she is also personally passionate about. “A personal connection to my work is really motivating… I want to do public interest work and that’s why I really love Nonprofit HR. The end goal, at least in the DEI practice, is to just make people’s experiences at work better. I might not necessarily be HR focused or DEI focused, but I ensure that whatever I do in the future, the end goal of my work is that people are living better lives,” she said. Following graduation, she plans to work in public sector consulting and specified that finding an in-person role (a growing trend for Gen Z) was a main focus for her. “When I was looking for jobs, a priority was in-person work because most of my college experience has been during COVID and it’s hard as a young professional to make connections.”
When it comes to mentors, Nora’s social psychology professor is one that stands out to her. ”What I like about her, and what I look for in a mentor, is that she keeps me accountable in that she’s always checking in on me and wants me to succeed. She knows everything that I am doing and she’ll always provide support for me,” she said. As Nora moves forward in her professional career, she said she hopes to venture into “uncharted territory” with her work. “There are a lot of things that I want to do or a lot of research topics that I’m interested in that no one has done before—so I should be the one to do it.”
Outside of work and school, you’ll find Nora napping, hanging out with friends, taking walks outside or watching the Great British Baking Show.
Her favorite quote?
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Tony Morrison
Her advice to future fellows and interns?
“The advice I would give is definitely to make connections with everyone on the team and actually take advantage of the other fellows. One of the advantages is that Avyan and I have become really close friends and it’s nice to have someone else who is going through the same thing. I know some fellows might be the only ones in their practice, so we were lucky that we could lean on each other for tasks. It was nice to have a sounding board but also a really good friend at the end of the day. Also, leverage other team members. Everyone on the DEI team has done really amazing things, they all have very specific and interesting backgrounds and I think there is a lot to learn from everyone on the team. Another piece of advice would be to not be scared to take on tasks that might seem daunting. For example, I was not excited about [leading] focus groups. Facilitation is something that I never thought that I would ever be good at and I definitely have to improve on it, but it’s a really important skill and it can really help you succeed in life. So don’t be afraid to take on tasks that might seem daunting.”
Zach joined the firm as a Social Enterprise Fellow in 2021 as a senior studying Business Administration at Georgetown University. Since obtaining his degree last May, he has become a full-time member of the Nonprofit HR team as a Client Services Associate. He shared that during his time at Georgetown, a focus of his studies was on how business and social impact work together, which is precisely what, in addition to the mentorship from Patty Hampton, drew him to his fellowship with the firm last spring. “I had a really authentic call with [Patty] when I was deciding what I wanted to do for my internship. I didn’t have much experience with HR in general so I felt that this was a bit out of my wheelhouse, but there was a trust there. I trusted that this was going to be a great learning experience for me, that I’d have a great mentor and I took the leap and went for it. It was attractive in general, too, because I wanted to work at the intersection of business and social impact,” he said.
He noted that the firm’s results-oriented culture and emphasis on flexibility are what allowed him to effectively manage his time as a student, and that continued as he transitioned to a full-time employee. “I also wasn’t working in person, so it also made the transition pretty easy to full-time work. But how it looks is exactly the same, that results-oriented culture and flexible schedule is the same. Now, I’m just spending more full-time hours on Nonprofit HR specifically,” he said.
“[Work-life integration] has been really valuable to me and is something that I know I will need if or when I will ever be at another place of employment going forward. Nonprofit HR is a great example of that relationship.”
Through his fellowship experience, Zach shared that he learned how important work-life integration is to him, which is an aspect of Nonprofit HR that he values. “[Work-life integration] has been really valuable to me and is something that I know I will need if or when I will ever be at another place of employment going forward. Nonprofit HR is a great example of that relationship,” he said. When he left school, Zach noted that he felt he had set a “good foundation” for work and life and now he hopes to continue growing. “The focus now for me is how to grow and build those skills and how to keep getting on cooler and cooler work and more important stuff within the firm—as well as how I can use that baseline to build up and push that envelope on where I’m comfortable. It’s exciting to start that, try it out and see how it feels,” he said. In the spirit of that growth, he shared his excitement about getting the opportunity to lean in more on Social Impact Talent Advisors (SITA), the firm’s social enterprise collaborative. “[Patty] has been giving me opportunities to take clients through the whole business development process, which has been really cool, so all the way from that first conversation to getting a proposal to them to getting them a contract and answering their questions. It’s been really cool to do that, especially with social enterprises, because that’s really where my passion lies.”
When asked who he admires the most, Zach shared that there were many people. “It’s like your own personal board of directors, where you have people you admire and go to about different things and areas of life. I feel like I have a good read of who of my friends and family are my go-to people to ask questions about specific things, whether it’s work-related or anything else.” And in terms of work relationships, he shared that mentorship specifically has been a critical part of his professional career. “Patty has been a really great mentor for me. I’ve realized just how important that is for me to have in a work environment, especially at this stage in my career. That would be the advice I would give to new people entering the workforce too. There are little things that are as important as who your mentor and boss is, especially as you are beginning work life. Someone who is willing to trust you to run with things and let you do things that are outside of what you normally would have access to. It has proved really beneficial to have that relationship,” he said.
When he’s not working, Zach loves to spend his time outdoors. “That’s where I spend a lot of my vacation time and trips with my friends. I think that’s where I’m at my happiest. It could be hiking or just sports in general too. That’s a big joy for me.”
His favorite quote?
“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” —John Lennon
His advice to future fellows and interns?
“I’ve had this mindset of starring in your role and proving that you can do that. Whatever it is, I don’t ever want to feel that the work is ‘beneath me.’ But rather, how can I do this most effectively? How can I make this better for the company and make other people’s lives easier? If you do that in any role that you’re in at any point in your life, people will notice. Whether you’re an assistant or CEO, if you really focus on starring in your role, that effort, attention to detail and willingness to do a good job will definitely be noticed and will open up other doors for you.”
Gen Z is currently the most diverse generation in U.S. history. What these stories demonstrate, and what data shows, is that this generation continues to value diversity, inclusion, flexibility, transparency and alignment of values in the places they work. And as indicated in our 2022 Nonprofit Talent Management Priorities Survey, culture and engagement was a top priority for nearly half (49%) of respondent organizations. Within that priority, the top areas of focus were on assessing organizational culture; implementing employee retention/engagement strategy, programs and/or initiatives; and improving organizational culture. This suggests employers are beginning to focus on key drivers of engagement (such as flexibility, inclusion, transparency) that can allow them to stay competitive in attracting, engaging and retaining Gen Z professionals.
At Nonprofit HR, fellows and interns have the opportunity to experience immense growth and development while learning about the social sector, our team and our work. Growth that can empower them to continue striving toward career goals with greater experience, knowledge and confidence.
We thank our fellows for their invaluable contributions and look forward to seeing where their passions will lead them in the future!