Students were given the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from nonprofit groups around the Stevens Point area at a round-table networking night from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, in the Encore room of the Dreyfus University Center, hosted by Career Services.
Those who attended participated in discussions where they were given seven minutes with each organization and one-on-one time with groups that interested them.
The American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club of Portage County, Central River Farmshed and United Way of Portage County were among six organizations at the event.
“I reached out to the local and regional nonprofits to find a diverse group so students could find opportunities and ask questions,” said senior Laura Brigman, peer mentor.
Brigman organized the event with some help from supervisors.
One of the most prominent bits of advice given was to acquire and utilize internships within one’s desired organization.
“Nonprofit organizations don’t have a lot of time for applications and interviews, so if they know someone is good at something, then they will hire you,” said Taylor Christianson, senior Central Rivers Farmshed volunteer coordinator. “The chances of you getting hired are exponentially higher if you already work for them.”
Jordan Derber, Boys & Girls Club director of teen services, agreed and said a number of her co-workers were interns prior to acquiring their positions.
“If they like you enough and want to keep you around, they will make a position and fit you in somehow,” Derber said.
In addition, it was recommended to attend community events and become a familiar face. When doing so, sources encouraged talking to people.
“If you’re going to work in a nonprofit, you better love what you do,” Christianson said. “As an Americorp member, I average $3 an hour, but I love it. I love being surrounded by people who are equally, if not more, passionate, about it than you are.”
While internships are always helpful to acquire, other forms of experience depend upon what type of nonprofit work one is planning on going into.
“Go and work with kids,” said Peter Gebhardt, Boys & Girls Club director of club site operations.. “It’s great to have experience with kids, but if you want to work in marketing, it’s good to have experience in business or graphic design.”
One of the tables included in discussion was headed by Taylor Koch, career outreach coordinator at Career Services. She offered advice on the pitch to offer employers and networking.
Koch said to offer potential employers a name, desired opportunities and one’s current level (research, entry-level or career).
She also said to share relevant experiences like volunteering, leadership positions and jobs. It is also a good idea to tell a self-exemplifying story.
“It is important to think about what you want to say ahead of time so you have it ready,” Koch said. “You may even want to practice it on a friend, but it’s important that it doesn’t sound rehearsed.”
Amy Wiza, executive director of Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of America Inc., watched her mother work in a nonprofit setting and had a hard time understanding it.
“I couldn’t understand why she chose 80-hour weeks over 40-hour weeks,” Wiza said. “But eventually I got it and joined her. Never say never, I guess.”
AmeriCorps member Wendy Fletcher also had a worthwhile experience working with CAP Services Inc. She often works at the 24-hour crisis desk.
“I’ve gotten a year’s worth of experience and it’s offered a wealth of education for me,” Fletcher said.
The event had a good turnout. Sophomore Abby Tentinger was one of the students in attendance.
Tentinger currently works for Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment (PAVE), an organization on campus she said is similar to nonprofit, and she is interested in finding a similar job.
“I wanted to learn more about the nonprofits in the area,” Tentiger said. “I’m really glad I came. I learned a lot and am really interested in the Boys & Girls Club.”
Brigman said the event turned out far better than she expected and hopes to do similar events in the future. She would like to offer different vendors as well as different types of organizations.
She would also like to encourage students to take advantage of these and similar events on and off campus.
“Any time there’s an opportunity like this available, nonprofit or profit, stop by and network,” Brigman said. “It opens a lot of doors you may not even know are there.”