How Can I Land an Internship / Job at a Non-Profit with a Humanities Major?

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Bianca from San Francisco State University asked:

“I am a Humanities major and I am having trouble narrowing down my career path. I am definitely interested in working in non-profit / philanthropic fields or anything community and education related, but am having trouble finding a field that hires humanities / liberal art graduates. What can I do?”

Thanks for your question, Bianca.  I certainly appreciate how you feel about your lack of success in landing a job in your desired field.  It sounds like you are anxious to solidify your career plans and get your career started.

Well, the good news is that your problem is one that has a solution.  But, it is important to recognize that today’s job market is extremely competitive, even for internships and entry-level opportunities regardless of field.  When you consider that 250 resumes are received on average for each corporate job opening, it isn’t hard to imagine your frustration.  But there is some positive news, though.  The job market is continuing to improve as the US unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 16 years.

Once you recognize the competitive nature of the job market, you can start putting together your plan to find the right opportunity for you.  Additionally, your job search plan of attack needs to include lots of consistent effort to achieve results.  Consider adding as much time as you can to your job search campaign until you reach the finish line and land the internship and/or job.

Below are some specific suggestions that you can include in your efforts.

Focus on Getting More Experience

If you aren’t sure exactly what you’d like to do as you start your career, then consider doing an internship before graduation in the areas that you seem to like – education and non-profits.  Getting this valuable experience will not only strengthen your resume and skill base, but will also help you determine work areas you like and don’t like.  Additionally, it will help you build your network and could lead to a full-time job upon graduation.  Planning your career takes work.  You’ll be able to use these on-the-job experiences to refine both your job search and career plans.  Additionally, if you are finding it hard to find internships, consider volunteering at a non-profit organization.  Volunteer experience can be just as valuable as internship or paid job experience.

Engage and Grow Your Network

People hire people, not computers.  We need the help of others to succeed both on the job and in life.  Networking (or engaging with people) is, was, and will always produce the best results in your job search.  Embrace saying hello to others, while reconnecting with people you already know.  One of the first things you should do is let all of your friends, family members, and connections know exactly what you are looking for and that you’d be grateful for any assistance that they can offer to you.  While many may not be able to help with a specific job lead, these individuals may be able to offer tips, leads, introductions, referrals, and more that can be a stepping stone to landing the internship or job.

Make sure to grow your circle of influence and network by attending community events, especially those hosted or sponsored by non-profit organizations.  Join professional associations in your field including non-profits to connect with others in your field.  Utilize LinkedIn to grow your virtual network, find posted internships and jobs, connect with recruiters, further your value proposition through skills endorsements and recommendations, and join industry related groups.

Diversify Your Internship and Job Search Efforts

Most students targeting jobs and internships mistakenly assume employers post all jobs / internships online through various job boards and company sites.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data shows that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Jobs / internships won’t always be posted online.  So, I suggest that you reverse this thinking by targeting employers, rather than waiting for an internship or job to be posted.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers in your area that may have employment opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  Then, be proactive and send off your marketing letter and resume to the decision maker.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Recognize that companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Introduce yourself to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for internships to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Target marketing as described above can be very powerful.  Consider adding other internship search methods including:

  • Networking – Engage your network to build your own marketing army filled with individuals who can potentially provide tips, leads, referrals, introductions, job placement, and more. Additionally, ask your employed network connections if their company has an employee incentive referral program.  If so, humbly ask if your connection would be willing to provide your resume to the decision making team.  Employers love to hire employee referrals as the candidates are pre-qualified initially by their own employees.
  • Job Leads Via Job Boards Using Double-Hit – After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview. Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.
  • Contact Your ProfessorsMake sure to get to know your professors, especially those teaching your humanities classes. These professors are likely to have connections within education and non-profits.  So, take advantage of their office hours by visiting occasionally as needed to ask for their advice and guidance.  If they get to know you, they might be willing to serve as a mentor, or at the very least, offer valuable insight and advice along with introductions that can be a springboard to landing an interview for the job or internship you desire.
  • Staffing Agencies – Staffing agencies may have opportunity you won’t find online so research to find an agency in your area specializing in non-profits. Scion Non-Profit Staffing and McCall Staffing Services are a couple of agencies for you to research and contact.

Use Non-Profit / Education-Specific Job Boards

There are many job / internship boards out there from which to choose.  Spend most of your time using the aggregator websites like that pull matches from many different sites.  Also, use websites that exclusively post non-profit and education internships and jobs including Common Good Careers, Bridgespan Group, Top School Jobs, and others.  Sites like these can alert you to jobs and internships available within the San Francisco metropolitan area.

Visit Your Career Center

Most colleges and universities offer services to recent graduates for at least a year after graduation at no cost.  Simply put, you should leverage your career center as it is a student resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Furthermore, they likely have a job site exclusively for current students and recent alums featuring jobs posted with the institution.  Contact your campus career center to up an appointment at your earliest convenience.

Putting It All Together

A recent survey of employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates that over 80 percent of employers value soft skills (teamwork, positive attitude, communication skills) as much as the job-required skills in recent college graduates.  This means that you’ll want to sell both your communication ability and job-specific skills during the hiring process.  Additionally, you should utilize the wide variety of resources availability to you to land both the internship and the job you are looking for in today’s market.  Recognize that there are many things you can do to land the one job you want.  Take daily action to achieve your goal.  If you fuel your campaign with consistent effort and don’t quit, you’ll reach the goal.  Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon


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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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