Nonprofit social service organizations vary in size, purpose, and location. There are large, national nonprofit youth advocacy agencies in the thick of policy issues in Washington, D.C., for example. On the other hand, there are hospices, shelters, and youth support centers in small, community-oriented settings. The nature of the work a director does may also vary, depending on the organization and its size, needs, goals, and board of directors. For example, some social welfare nonprofits focus on changing legislation or public perceptions of certain social issues. These organizations will work differently from those that focus more on working directly with those needing services.
With your B.S.W. or M.S.W. in hand, you should be able to find entry-level work in the social services field. Your college career services office will have contacts to get you started, and the contacts you've made through your professors and colleagues will be invaluable in referring you to vacant positions. Many social service directors started their careers as volunteers and then, as employees, they worked their way up the ranks.
As the director or executive director of an organization, it can be difficult to see advancement opportunities because these people are already at the top levels of their organizations. A director, however, may see advancement as broadening the goals of his or her organization, increasing funding, or raising public awareness about the issues the organization addresses. Directors can also advance by moving from one nonprofit to another, larger nonprofit agency.
Volunteer your time and talents to your favorite local nonprofit.
Develop your public speaking and leadership skills by joining your local, nonprofit chapter of Toastmasters International.
Become a member of a professional organization, such as the National Association of Social Work, to learn more about industry news and trends.
Join and lead a school or community group in volunteer activities. This will help you gain experience in organizing and coordinating volunteer events.