Nonprofits, Think Tanks, Social Enterprise

Nonprofits cut across every type of industry and function area—including education, communication, healthcare, and technology—and working in this sector can be a great way to combine a subject area interest with a desire to make a difference. “Think Tanks” are organizations which conduct research and study and recommend public policy alternatives. They can approach issues from a partisan or non-partisan perspective, and often serve a broader educational function as well, through conferences and publications. Social enterprises are businesses with two goals: to generate income by selling a product or service, and to create a social, environmental, or cultural impact. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives run within organizations include environmental sustainability programs, alternative energy ideas, and improving the quality of life of the workforce and families in society at large.

Finding Internships

Many think tanks have structured internship programs that run throughout the year. For social enterprise, consider interning or volunteering at a nonprofit organization, or at a startup or business to help you acquire the necessary business skills. For corporate social responsibility, consider the public relations department at for-profit companies, working at a government agency in policy, or spending a summer working for a niche CSR consulting company. If you are interested in grant-making, consider volunteering on a grant-making committee for a foundation. If fundraising is of interest, consider volunteering as a Crimson Caller at Harvard, where student callers spend their time raising money for the University.

Finding Jobs

Nonprofits use “just in time” hiring, which means that opportunities are posted only once a position becomes available. Use the fall to connect with interesting organizations and professionals in the field. These connections can be helpful in identifying future opportunities and during the application process. Get involved in Harvard student groups, connect with Harvard alums through the Alumni Directory and LinkedIn, go to networking meetings, and consider joining a professional association.

Also, to find out about volunteer, internship and post-graduate opportunities, take advantage of on-campus resources such as the Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship, the Institute of Politics (IOP)Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the Harvard i-lab.

Graduate and Professional Programs

Some think tanks prefer to hire research assistants (RAs) who have a master’s degree or who are doing graduate work. However, it is possible for students with a bachelor’s degree to be hired for RA positions, which usually last from one to two years. If you are interested in affiliating yourself with a think tank as a career goal, you will need a Ph.D.

Many foundations require extensive experience or an advanced degree when hiring.

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