The Nonprofit Career Guide: How to land a job that makes a difference

Book review by Jennifer Ealey & Samuel Plonk

[Editor's Note: This book review originally appeared in Career Convergence Web Magazine in November 2008.  It is being reprinted as part of our Special Book Review issue now.]


The nonprofit career guide: How to land a job that makes a difference by Shelley Cryer. Fieldstone Alliance Publishing, 2008, 300 pages.

For career counselors working with clients wanting to break in to a sector that is commonly overlooked, The Nonprofit Career Guide: How to Land a Job that Makes a Difference by Shelley Cryer delivers. This comprehensive resource is a reference tool and accessible starting point for any hopeful professional's employment search and will continue to be valuable as a desk reference throughout his or her career. Beginning with an insightful exposition of the nonprofit world, this handbook provides concrete strategies and pavement-pounding tips for securing the ideal job for those wanting a career that makes a difference. Readers will immediately see Cryer's passion for the sector from the Preface as she refers to it as "diverse, dynamic, and absolutely vital" and is "nothing if it is not its people".

Cryer's intent is to inform those individuals who are interested in making a positive impact on society through vocation, but who might not be sure how to apply his or her skills to that end. Thus, the book's greatest gift may be to shed light on the full spectrum of job possibilities within the nonprofit sector. As the author notes, "There is a place for everyone-from salespeople, scientists, and computer technicians to teachers, writers, and even bakers."

The first three chapters thoroughly explore the depth and the breadth of the nonprofit industry. These chapters will give career counselors a fresh new view of the nonprofit sector. Chapter One defines what a nonprofit organization is within the greater context of society and the business world. Also included is a section on the importance of volunteerism and insightful salary information. Chapters Two and Three continue to delve into the nonprofit realm by cataloguing the various sub sectors and noting the many types of work available, as well as some specific jobs that are not typically thought of as being service-oriented.

Chapters Four and Five provide basic information about preparing for, seeking out, and landing that rewarding nonprofit position. These instructional pages include how to:

  • better understand one's professional self
  • write a resume
  • write a cover letter
  • productively network.

For seasoned career professionals, Chapters Four and Five will most likely act as a review section. However, for recent graduates just entering the professional sphere, having this information in one manual is beneficial and time saving.

As helpful as the information presented is, one criticism of the Career Guide could be the seeming assumption that its audience is primarily metropolitan. Many of the more practical items included are neither far-reaching nor region specific. For example, since not all nonprofit aspirants live in the shadow of a major city, it may be more helpful to the reader if a chapter were designed to contrast a rural job search with an urban job search, or alternatively, to cover what to expect when in the market for a nonprofit career in a variety of geographic regions throughout the United States. Though, in Chapter One, Cryer lists the top 20 largest nonprofit organizations, many of which have chapters/offices in small communities.

All told, the Career Guide is a solid source for all things nonprofit. Cryer not only draws on her own ample experience and expertise, but also allows other voices to be heard through Q&A profiles in which nineteen varied professionals offer their perspective on the same eight questions. Other features that augment the validity of the text include:

  • an extensive list of websites, books, directories, and periodicals, and academic programs
  • helpful sidebars that describe certain topics in greater detail
  • pertinent statistics, mostly from Nonprofit Almanac 2008
  • sample job descriptions.

The Nonprofit Career Guide acts as a true handbook and selling piece for the industry. Cryer leads a straightforward, all-inclusive tour of information on seeking to find-not just gainful, but also-meaningful employment. The professional profiles and sidebars are especially valuable. By including insights from leaders in the sector, Cryer's Guide becomes more of a significant resource. Career counselors helping clients look for that perfect job will also find the Guide useful and a resource they will continue to go back to for information on the sector. The Appendix with its nonprofit job website will certainly be one of the most beneficial sections to career counselors in tracking down positions in the sector. Career counselors and those interested in a career in the nonprofit sector, the Guide might just be a ticket to fulfillment.  


Jennifer Ealey, GCDF is a Graduate Student in Counselor Education (School Counseling emphasis) at Clemson University. She will graduate in December with aspirations of working with disadvantaged youth in the public school system. She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for many years. She can be reached at jealey@clemson.edu.

Samuel Plonk is a Graduate Student in Counselor Education (Community Counseling emphasis) at Clemson University. Sam has volunteered with the Border Servant Corps in El Paso, TX, leading immersion events. He can be reached at splonk@clemson.edu .

Printer-Friendly Version