So you like your current job, but don’t see yourself there in five years? No problem. The thing you need to think about is what you WANT to be doing in five years. Look online for job descriptions that you want and focus on the Experience/Qualifications Sections of the jobs. If the position doesn’t exist in your current organization you can create it. The biggest thing you need to do is demonstrate why the position is worth while to have in your current organization. The biggest roadblock will be money, your organization likely won’t be able to promote your or change your position from what you were hired for and make your dream job.

The way to do it is to take on more. I know, in non-profits that is always what happens. The “other duties as assigned” or ODA is really a second or third position when it comes down to it. What I am advocating is embracing the ODA but adding these other duties to your job description. Create categories in your job description. Each annual review propose an updated job description. The things you add should start to look like the job you want in a few years. Of course, at each review advocate for pay increases based on these increased responsibilities but the other goal here is to increase your proficiencies in a paid position. You may already have these skills or be developing them on the job. You may volunteer for organizations and do these things which are great, but there is a world of difference to employers between the “volunteer” and “work experience” sections of your resume. (Side note: if you CAN’T work what you want to do into your current paid position/positions, having it in your volunteer section is a great step in the right direction).

Another thing to advocate for after increased pay and updated job descriptions is a new title. Even if you don’t get that raise, you can get a “promotion” and this looks great to future employers. If you go from Publication Assistant to Communications Coordinator to Director of Outreach and Marketing for the same organization in a number of years and don’t make a cent more this is bad for you, but worse for your employer. The next job you apply for shouldn’t be an assistant position, it should be a director. Your raise may not happen within the place you learned and developed the skills, your raise happens with the next interview process. Think of the current job as a job/paid internship. You are being paid for the level you came into the organization and while you may be frustrated at the lack of “corporate ladder” movement, you can focus on the next job which will be a big jump.

Finally, develop those leadership and management skills. The easiest way to do this within an entry level position is to manage volunteers. Even if you position doesn’t currently do so, you can find some way to involve volunteers in your position. If you do front office work, try to organize front desk volunteers. If you manage mailings, start a mailing group to help collate, organize, and do the various steps to get the mailing ready. If you are involved in development organize the group that does calls or door knocking. Anything to show that you can manage people, help lead a group to success, and show that you would be able to do so with paid employees that would manage in a higher up position in the next organization you are employed by.

So the steps:

  1. Find you dream job and list the qualifications.
  2. Take on the tasks in your current organization that will give you said qualifications.
  3. Move these new skills from other duties as assigned to documented parts of your job.
  4. Advocate for increased pay based on these new proficiencies, updates to your job description, and a new title.

Once you have the skills, the title, the job description as close to what you want to be doing, apply for your dream/next step job. One last thing I would do is before you transition out of the organization try to have the demonstrated new position created within your current work environment. Some organizations might see the added value and want you focusing on that full-time. If your current employer can’t make that happen it is okay, be thankful for the chance to develop the skills and move on. The reality is that Millennials/Gen-Yers are showing increase job shifts than previous generations. We also want our jobs to be not only profitable and pay our bills but meaningful and “going somewhere.” The idea of having the same static position for five, ten, or even longer is not what the up and coming workforce is looking for. Embrace this and still be loyal and open about your process. If your applications result in a job offer this can be discussed with your manager. You can always show that you have a competing offer, explain that you love the place you work, and if they can meet it that is awesome. If they can’t you’ve got your dream job, and can start to think about where you want to be in the NEXT five years.

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