How to Make a Midlife Career Shift into Non-Profit

4 minute read

As someone who has punched a clock in the corporate sector for years now, you are faced with some critical questions: ‘Do I keep working in the same field or do I start doing things that I truly enjoy?’

Many would argue that changing a career when you are late in the game is kind of a big deal. Chances are you have some hefty responsibilities like a mortgage to pay off or children to look after. But should those things really hold you back from making a midlife career change? Should you be part of 55% of workers feeling unhappy?


Consider this…

Edgar Burroughs, who created the world-famous Tarzan books, became a writer at the age of 35. Prior to that, he worked as a military man, a policeman, a shopkeeper and a gold prospector.

Yuri Larin, a famous artist whose paintings are exhibited in museums in Russia, the United States and France, started his art career when he was 40. And before that, he worked as an engineer.

These examples are a dime a dozen. So if you have reached the point when you care less about your paycheck and more about your happiness and fulfilment, you should consider a career in a non-profit.

How to Make a Midlife Career Shift into Non-Profit

Brainstorming viable career paths

Most guides on the topic will tell you: start with a passion and look for something that made you tick as a child. But that sounds cliché. You might be passionate about crocheting but how can that help you pinpoint your dream career? That’s is why you need to start with a passion, but not stop there.

The best way to go about it would be to find the time when you are the most productive. The time when you have your best ideas. Make yourself a coffee and come up with a list of things you love doing.

Then, run the following Google search ‘list of charity jobs for’ + (your passion). You’ll find some unusual careers paths you never knew existed. For instance, if writing is your passion, becoming a grant/contracts specialist, a coordinator of planned giving, a community outreach coordinator, etc. could be an option for you.

So, put together your list of ten careers you think you would love based on your interests and get yourself going.


Narrowing down your choices

Once you have a list of possible careers/jobs that you want to pursue, you want to pinpoint the ones that are of the highest interest to you and zero in on them.

Luckily, there are some ways seasoned professionals can research various roles in the charity sector. To do this, run a simple Google search: ‘What’s it like to be a’ + (job title)’. This will give you a solid idea about your chosen non-profit career and what you can expect from it.



Identifying transferable skills

Regardless of the career path you want to pursue, you’ve probably acquired a great deal of experience and skills by now. And all these skills are transferable, which means they can become a great entry-point to the charity sector.

Let us say you currently work in the financial sector. You’ve probably developed some of these transferable skills:

  • Leadership and team management
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork

If, for instance, you enjoy the leadership and team management aspects of your current career, but you lack dynamism, which prompts a career change in the first place, you can realise your potential much more powerfully working in a small charity.

How to Make a Midlife Career Shift into Non-Profit

Bridging the knowledge gap

While some of your skills may be transferable, you may be lacking some technology-related skills, which your potential younger colleagues excel at. And contrary to popular belief, a great majority of large charities operate like corporates so the demand for technical skills is always high.

But does that mean you have to go back to university to get yet another degree, which may or may not improve your new career prospects? While some careers do require certain credentials (e.g., a Bachelor’s degree), most non-profit careers don’t.

The good news is that there are plenty of technical skills you can master in a matter of months online. For instance, learning the basics of front-end web development can be completed in months and getting to an intermediate level in Excel will take you three to four weeks of hard work.

With these timeframes in mind, you can see that it is possible to learn everything today and it is artificial constraints that keep people stuck in their careers.


Adjusting your CV

Your CV absolutely needs to be tailored to the new career you’re pursuing. Check out a few job descriptions and note down what skills and credentials are valued the most. Also, before you sit down and start writing your new CV, it is a good idea to run a good old Google search to supplement your findings. ‘Skills you need to become a’ + (job title). For career changers, it is best to use a combination CV, since it showcases your qualifications grouping accomplishments by skill.



When you want to make a career change in your 40s/50s to a job that allows you to give back, the stakes are high. However, if you approach the matter smart and map out your transition, this can make the whole process a lot smoother.

Not sure how to adapt your CV for the non-profit sector? Download our free CV template today. And let us know if you have any questions and share your experiences in the comment section below. And if you want to know more about what’s available for you in the non-profit sector, explore our job listings today.

Max Woolf

Max Woolf is a writer at Zety. He is passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. In this spare time, Max enjoys biking and travelling to European countries.

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