Finding Nonprofit Work in a New Town

entering_seattle_sign_JS004950-300x210.jpgIn 2008, I was a student at Roosevelt University in Chicago studying journalism. I knew it was going to be tough finding a job in that field, but I loved writing and wanted to follow my passion. However, I also knew that I could benefit from an internship, like most college students realize when they see graduation day knocking on their door. So, I took a chance and applied for a six-month internship at the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). I was curious about public housing and social service programs and thought this would be a great way to learn more. It was a competitive process, but to my surprise, I was offered a position and started interning in their Grants Administration Department.


I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was ready to put my pen to paper and soak up as much information as I could. Halfway through my internship, I had the opportunity to work with the CHA’s nonprofit arm, Windows of Opportunity. Housed on the same floor, I learned about their mission to provide positive activities for youth living in public housing. I was in awe of this aspiration, this commitment to some of the city’s most vulnerable young people and I wanted to help.

After my internship with the grants department ended, I started working at Windows of Opportunity summer educational enrichment program, Next Step: College Prep. I was placed in the classroom, five days a week, with 30 high school students who were eager to learn resume building skills, public speaking tips and improve their reading and math levels. This was the first time I had been in that type of environment, but I loved it and that summer I realized the non-profit world was where my heart truly was.

Speed forward to 2012: I was still in Chicago working at BUILD, a 40-year-old nonprofit providing multiple services to again, some of Chicago’s most troubled youth.  I loved my job and was finally in my element.  I wasn’t working at a magazine or newspaper like I always thought I would, but I felt-I knew-I was making a difference in my beloved city.  However, changes occurred in my personal life and after over a year at BUILD, I moved to Seattle.  It’s tough when you are in a new city with no contacts and starting from the bottom up in the job-hunting arena.  However, Seattle was full of nonprofits and I couldn’t wait.

After a number of months taking time to figure out what I wanted to do with my new life in the Northwest, I found my current employer, Youth in Focus.  It is a youth development organization that uses photography as a tool to help empower young people and teach them how to develop negatives into positives.  I’ve been here for a year now and can honestly say that I love my job, every single day.

However, it wasn’t that easy navigating the hundreds of nonprofits in the area, job boards and networking events especially being new to the city.  I kept at it though and found the below resources helpful in my hunt for the perfect nonprofit job:

  • Idealist: I used Idealist in Chicago and this was my first stop when I moved to Seattle. It’s an easy to use site where you can search by area, interests as well as jobs and internships.
  • Philanthropy Northwest: This is a great resource for anyone new to the area because it’s not only a job board, but also a wealth of knowledge about the nonprofit arena in general.
  • City of Seattle: The city website can be a great tool for people wanting to check out government-based jobs. These types of websites are also helpful when in a new city to learn about policies and programs.
  • King County Youth Development Network: For anyone wanting to work with young people, this is a the best place to start to learn more about Seattle’s programs and nonprofit working to make a difference in the lives of young people.

I couldn’t be happier having moved to Seattle to continue my nonprofit career path. It’s been an awesome two years and I can’t wait to continue to make a positive impact of the youth that I work with. When moving to a new city, it can be daunting to start your job hunt not knowing where to begin, but that’s part of the excitement: carving your own path and making it your own. So, for those who may be wondering if working at a nonprofit is for you, or those already in the field and questioning whether it’s the best fit, ask yourself this: are you inspired by the work you’re doing, or want to do, and want to make a difference in your community, even a small one. If you answer yes, then you know you’re on the right path.

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