Interviews at investment banks and consulting firms may have dominated the month of January, but February at Undergraduate Career Services is all about nonprofits.
Based on the responses from last semester’s UCS Nonprofit Survey, UCS updated its homepage to include a Social Services and Advocacy section, increased the number of presenters at its Feb. 16 Nonprofit Career Fair, and organized several information sessions and workshops about nonprofit programs, internships and job opportunities. Students and officials alike agree that the inherent budget constraints of nonprofits limit their capabilities to reach out to students on campus, but many said they welcomed UCS’s new initiatives.
Dwight Hall Program Director Johnny Scafidi ’01 said he remembers the limited number of nonprofit resources UCS offered when he was in college.
“UCS had some resources such as the infamous red binders which you could thumb through to find summer internships, but there weren’t any counselors specifically aware of or trained in nonprofit counseling,” Scafidi said. “In my perspective UCS has come a very long way.”
Scafidi said the evolution toward online job searches has also made it easier for students to look for nonprofit internships and job opportunities and read about organizations’ goals.
UCS Director Phil Jones said approximately 30 to 40 nonprofit organizations will have tables at this month’s nonprofit career fair, although he said the number of nonprofits able to attened varies each year with the ebb and flow of the economy.
Some students said that because many nonprofits face budget constraints, UCS particularly needs to take an active role in bringing them to campus.
“When you have Teach for America or investment banking, Yale may not have to put in an investment, because [TFA and investment banks] are large enough that they have the capacity to recruit,” Nazneen Mehta ’06 said. “But a lot of nonprofits you are talking about have six people in an office. They are not going to send people out to recruit, unless a university is proactive in building a list, database or clearinghouse for these kinds of jobs and opportunities. Yale is not making those investments.”
But Jones said nonprofits do not have the “habit” of going from campus to campus to recruit. Since many nonprofits are small, he said, on-campus hiring is not a cost-efficient method of filling a small number of spaces. UCS works with those organizations that do recruit on campus, such as the Peace Corps, which takes 2,000 students per year, he said.
“With 2 million employers in the U.S., students would be pretty limited if they thought the only ones they could work for were the 150 who come to campus,” Jones said in an email. “Again though, if students don’t understand that these organizations are unlikely to come to campus, and that they have to make the effort with them, then the old mythology will persist.”
Scafidi said he thinks nonprofits would like to dedicate more of their energy toward seeking talented candidates, but nonprofit employees often have multifaceted roles which require them to work as recruiters, training personnel and managers. Another factor that can be very frustrating for students is the fact that many of the nonprofit jobs that will open up after graduation do not become available until later in the spring semester, Scafidi said, since many such jobs are funded through grants.
Nevertheless, some students said they have had a positive experience finding nonprofit jobs through UCS. Ann Gaul ’07 said while it is usually difficult to find an international or paid nonprofit internship, she has been able to pursue both types of internships through the UCS Bulldogs programs. But Gaul said she would like to see UCS conduct practice job interviews for nonprofits, just as it currently does for consulting and investment banking jobs.
Other students said they found no need to talk to UCS, since the University offers other avenues — such as the Dwight Hall Summer Fellowship, President’s Public Service Fellowship and Association of Yale Alumni summer community fellowship — through which to pursue nonprofit work.
While students said they appreciated UCS’s new focus on the nonprofit industry, they questioned the effectiveness of the center’s upcoming workshop series “How to Market Yourself for the Nonprofit Sector,” since many nonprofits are very small and emphasize a particular personal connection to the organization.
“I doubt that there is a really a formula for the nonprofit world, because in the nonprofit world there are many different types of organizations,” Polly Mygatt ’07 said. “If you are going into public health versus education versus civic engagement, they are all very different.”
Alumni who have gone on to work in the nonprofit industry said the individualized nature of nonprofits is what makes them effective.
“Government programs try to fit people into categories, whereas nonprofits are trying to work individually with people,” Mehta said. “Basically all of these social ills that the government can’t fill, these nonprofits are basically plugging the leaks. They are our society’s Band-Aids, in a way.”
But while working for nonprofits can be rewarding, alumni said, the limitations of reality quickly temper idealism. Patricia Maloney GRD ’12, who was part of the Teach for America program, said on many nights she would come home and sob, frustrated by her day’s failures — including getting yelled at by administrators or not being able to help every child in her classroom.
“Walking in you are all idealistic thinking you will change things by the sheer force of will,” Maloney said. “Coming from the best and brightest schools … the people coming into TFA have never failed from their lifetime in any meaningful way. And then they walk into the classroom, and you just can’t do it through sheer force of will. You will fail every day, and the question is, will you come back the next day?”
Approximately 30 percent of Yale graduates enter the nonprofit field after graduation, Jones said.