You’ve decided you need to make a professional change and do something that matters to you. But how do you begin? “You have to do some experiments,” says Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook. “Do pro bono work, volunteer, show up at events. Test the waters and you’ll get closer to refining and finding if your skills will be the best fit.”
Transitioning could take some time and it may require a financial investment. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you make the move. Here are some.
Fellowships/Paid Temporary Work
Interested in education administration? The Broad Superintendent Academy sponsors an advanced development program that identifies and prepares experienced leaders to successfully run urban public education systems.
What about teaching? You could attend Citizen School on an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship and gain teaching and nonprofit experience while working in communities and schools. The New Teacher Project offers programs for retraining midcareer professionals without prior teaching experience in tough school environments. You’ll get training and a state certification.
Encore.org offers a fellowship for people who want to shift from their profession to more socially conscious jobs and careers. Fellows work full or part time, anywhere from six months to a year in Arizona, California, New York, Oregon, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Washington, Washington D.C. and, new this year, London.
ReServe matches continuing professionals who are over 55 with part-time paid positions at nonprofits.
Teach for America, known for recruiting recent graduates, is also looking for mid-career professionals committed to fixing schools.
Training and Career Development
The U.S. government, via the Department of Labor, has an adult services program that provides training and career development.
- Acumen provides a one-year global fellowship program that immerses future social leaders in leadership training and fieldwork.
- Ashoka offers fellowships to entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to social problems in over 60 countries.
- Bainbridge Graduate Institute helps their students to build businesses that are financially successful, as well as socially and environmentally responsible through a one-of-a-kind business education.
- Echoing Green is a global nonprofit that provides two-year fellowship programs and assistance to social entrepreneurs launching new organizations.
- Green Business Owner.com guides aspiring green entrepreneurs with webinars and links to resources.
- The National Business Incubation Association assists emerging companies and new business owners by providing network opportunities with annual conferences and specialized training, and offering industry research.
- Sansori offers Jam Sessions, part-time or yearlong educational programs, for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
- Social Venture Network is a membership community for social entrepreneurs to share what they know and investor advice and resources.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration has a program for women 50 years or over who want to switch careers and start their own business.
Education: Online training
Guide to Online School has a list of online accredited colleges and universities. The site also organizes the schools by type of degree offered, tuition and subject matter. You can also compare online degree programs in your field of interest and learn the average salaries in the jobs you’re targeting.
Maybe you need to brush up on your skills or become more familiar with a subject matter and don't necessarily need to go back to school. Consider taking a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), a free course on the Internet.
You might also browse through OpenCourseWare (OCW). Universities and colleges from around the world, including Tufts, Stanford and the University of Notre Dame offer free online courses. Of course, you can’t claim you have a degree from MIT after taking, say, Machine Learning and Statistics, but completing the work might give you the extra advantage you need.
When the economy tanked in 2008-2009, community colleges across the country began to see Baby Boomers enrolling in skill-specific classes to improve their professional outlooks. Since then, the number of classes designed to train mid-career professionals has grown from 50 to more than 1,000. Bonus: You’ll also pay much less for courses at a community college than you would at a traditional university where you’d earn an MBA or graduate degree. Find your local community college or the colleges that offer specific programs to help you with career changes.
Apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA), which schools use to determine your eligibility. Your income might rule out federal grants, but you also might qualify for state or university grants as well as scholarships.
If you’re older, you may qualify for a Research Tuition Waiver Program. Your state’s department of education will have information on programs for older students. The definition of “older” varies from state to state. To find the specific program that applies to you, do an Internet search for “Research Tuition Waiver Program” and the name of your state.
You may also be able to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit, expanded in 2012, to allow those with higher incomes to claim a deduction of up to $2500 for four post-secondary years.
Search for all kinds of scholarships according to education level and field of interest. Local chapters of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers scholarships between $2,000 and $12,000 for women who hold bachelor’s degrees and are preparing to advance their careers.
The Pell grant is a federal grant that offers up to $5,500 per year for those with financial need and does not have to be repaid. Usually for those earning a bachelor’s degree, they can also apply to a teaching certification program.
Stafford loans, also a federal program, have a very low interest rate and don’t need to be paid back as long as you’re in school and meet the financial requirements.
Get college credit for what you already know through the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. They will evaluate whether your knowledge can be used for college credit, certification, or advanced standing for further training—and potentially save you money.
- Bridgestar’s Transition to a Nonprofit Learning Center offers tips on getting started and finding jobs in the nonprofit sector. It also provides job listings.
- Commongood Careers recruits for positions at the nation’s leading nonprofits and with social innovators.
- Encore Career Finder searches more than five million job listings for positions in nonprofit, environmental, health, education, social service and governmental organizations.
- ExecSearches is a job board that lists executive, mid-level, and fundraising positions in the nonprofit, government, education and health sectors.
- The Foundation Center is a great site for learning useful information about philanthropy fundraising and grant programs, along with excellent resources on nonprofits. It also runs research, education, and training programs around the country.
- Idealist.org is the largest nonprofit job site, featuring thousands of jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities.
- Mom Corps is a professional staffing firm that focuses on finding experienced professionals flexible positions in companies of all sizes nationwide.
- Monster.com. Let’s not forget the biggest job search engine out there. Monster has a million-plus postings at any one time.
- The NonProfit Times Career Center allows you to search jobs by state or title.
- ReServe matches professionals age 55+ with organizations that need their expertise for part-time service projects and pays a modest stipend.