Megan Ellison. Special Events Coordinator. United Way Toronto

Young Professional Series. As we spring forward to warmer days (hopefully), we come closer to graduation season (aka job hunting season). As a recent graduate, Megan knows first hand the struggles of job search and the triumph of success- landing an awesome opportunity at one of the most recognizable non-profits, United Way Toronto. Megan’s story demonstrates the power of networking and the importance of volunteering. Whether it’s your first job or your fifth, if you want to work in non-profit, take note of these practical tips and put them into practice.

In a nutshell can you describe your job?
As the Special Events Coordinator, I work on a team with three other amazing event pros. We are responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of all United Way Toronto special events.

What a typical day looks like?
It really depends on the day or the event we are working on! But my day usually consists of liaising with the Events team, with other members of the organization, and with our vendors. There are so many details that go into the planning process and we always have deadlines to meet! I get to work on events ranging from our most recent GenNext Event  to United Way’s signature CN Tower Climb where I helped register over 12,000 people over four days!

How did you get your current job?
I first got involved with United Way Toronto as a student of George Brown College’s Sport and Event Marketing postgraduate program. One of our classes required that we plan and host a charity event and my team and I chose United Way Toronto as our charity. My role in the group was the ‘Charity Liaison’ and so I contacted the Events Team and setup a meeting to discuss our event.

From there, they invited me to join their Special Event Committee. A position then opened up and I applied. I highly doubt I would have gotten the job if I didn’t already have a strong connection with the team and the organization.

What accomplishment in your current job are you most proud of?
Most recently, I have been assisting in the growth and development of United Way Toronto’s third party event program. Seeing as how I, myself, got involved via a third party event while I was still a student, I suggested that we add a ‘mentorship and networking’ element to the program and reach out to Events programs just like mine. I wanted to talk to students who are eager to get hands-on experience and learn more about the not-for-profit sector. In the last two months, I have gone into classrooms and given presentations on our program, our Special Events Committee, and how students can get involved. I guess it’s my way of giving back since I was, not that long ago, in their shoes!

What advice would you give someone looking to get a non-profit job?
My advice would be to volunteer. Most not-for-profits rely on volunteers! It is a great way to meet new people and network as well. A lot of the time, volunteers work directly with the staff.

Additionally, the ‘informational interview’ is always a great tool for networking! Interested in learning about a particular organization or position? Ask someone to meet for a casual coffee. Even though I have a job that I love, I still go for informational interviews because I am interested in learning about what other people do and am always looking to meet new people.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before pursuing a career in non-profit?
I wish I knew how many different positions/jobs there were in the sector! There are so many people involved in keeping organizations up and running and they are all so important.

What skills and/or qualities are important to have for a job in non-profit?   I think it is important that you are open minded and also willing to get very hands-on. Be open to pitching in and helping where help is needed!

Like what Megan has to say? Follow her on twitter @MeganKEllison
Want to work at UnitedWay? Start by following them on twitter @unitedwayto

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