If you could do anything you wanted right now, given your educational background and experience, what would it be?
Many newcomers to the nonprofit world don't really care what position they fill as long as they are helping to promote an issue about which they are passionate.
For others, their job duties and responsibilities are more important than tackling a specific issue.
Take the time to think about what you would really like to be doing with your days, and not just which issues matter to you. Particularly in larger organizations, a huge range of positions exist — accountants, fundraisers, administrative assistants — that support the organization's mission, but are not directly involved in promoting the issue around which the group was established.
Consider the type of nonprofit work environment that would best suit you. Do you want to work for a large organization or a small one? A group that has been around for years or one that is fairly new?
Before you start your search, try to determine if your dream job involves, for example, research, advocacy, direct service, working indoors or outdoors, or doing policy or administrative work.
Having a clear idea of the kind of work that interests you will help you be more selective when you see all the positions that are available in the nonprofit sector.
Moreover, knowing what you seek in a position makes you a more desirable candidate to prospective employers, who will see that you want this particular job for a reason, and not simply because you are desperate for work.
While the nonprofit sector isn't known for lavish salaries, nonprofit organizations do support 12 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Be realistic about your financial needs, and before you negotiate a higher salary, take a look at salary surveys that show you what a reasonable salary is, in your region, for your type of position. The more you know, the better chances you'll have of finding a job that can support you and your family.
If you are just starting out, take a look at the book Making a Difference: A Guide to Personal Profit in a Nonprofit World developed by Idealist and the National Endowment for Financial Education.
Also check out our section on Closing the Deal which explores salary and benefits negotiation.