Careers For The Common Good V

March 13, 2013
Annelise Dohrer

"Stretch beyond your comfort zone. You never know who might be able to help you," states speaker Davin Cardenas '04.

This is a snippet of the type of advice students receive when they attend the Careers for the Common Good Panel. This annual event gives students the opportunity to listen to speakers, ask questions and receive advice from Sonoma State University graduates and local citizens who make a living in the non-profit world.

The students came to the event to hear about job opportunities but left with more than work related information. Rosie McGoldrick, an Environmental Studies major at SSU shared her experience stating, "I'm glad I came. I learned more about non-profits than I expected to. I also learned that what you major in doesn't determine what you're going to do. It's all about your passion."

Noah Tenney, a Communications major, Political Science minor reflected, "Now I understand what makes a non-profit a non-profit. I thought non-profits were all volunteers. Now I realize the difference is where the money that's raised goes."

Each speaker introduced themselves and the non-profit they were representing. The panel consisted of four females and one male. The speakers noted this female to male ratio was common in their field of work and they were all supportive of a more male represented non-profit world.

The speakers advised taking advantage of the Writing Center because of its ability to hone professional writing skills. Additionally, speaker Briana Downey '00 passed on some helpful information stating, "Being a successful grant writer, you will always have a job in the non-profit sector." In addition, Jen Prentiss encouraged all students to consider non-profits stating, "No matter what degree one earns there is a role for them in the non-profit sector.  We need financial analysts, marketing professionals, sociologists, HR, writers, business majors, science majors.... all of 'em!"

Additionally, the speakers all agreed networking is one of the most important skills you can acquire in undergrad. Not far behind was public speaking. "Learning how to take a message and deliver it in a way that meets the needs of the audience is a great skill," stated Briana Downey. They also stressed the importance of volunteering and interning as it is the main way to become involved in the non-profit world.

Although Amy McCrary of the Climate Protection Campaign was unable to join us, she agrees with the other speakers that strong verbal and written communication skills are paramount, as well as networking and taking initiative. She is happy to answer questions about working with an environmental organization, so feel free to contact her at

Although non-profit organizations focus on fulfilling their mission, the reality is, they need money to operate. According to speaker Davin Cardenas, "If you're not real about making money in the non-profit world, then you're not really being real." Acquiring fundraising skills can be extremely helpful to non-profits. So if you are interested in impressing non-profits fundraising might be something you look into figuring out. Furthermore, despite popular belief, it is possible to make a decent living working with non-profit organizations. Every one of the panelists had a paying job in the non-profit sector.

The Careers for Common Good Panel was a great success with a turnout of over 40 students. Thank you to JUMP and Career Services for co-hosting this event. Special thanks to the amazing presenters who volunteered their time, experiences and great advice! The panel will return in 2014, so stay tuned!

Here is a link to the previous Careers for Common Good Panel Blog 2012: