Personal Journey

Student Corner

Non-profit vs. Corporate: What’s the Difference?

By Ally Medeiros on February 19, 2024

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A young woman sitting at their desk with their phone in front of them.

Before I started studying public relations and strategic communications at Durham College, I didn’t ever consider what sector I wanted to work in. Maybe that sounds shocking, but maybe it’ll be less so when I tell you my previous career was in the performing arts. It probably makes more sense now. I never had to consider if I wanted to work for a non-profit or for a corporation, but now as I’m approaching graduation, I need to figure out an answer for myself.  

I’m currently interning once a week at Dress for Success Toronto, a worldwide non-profit organization that helps break barriers for women entering the workforce and ultimately achieving financial independence. I absolutely love what this organization does and I’m proud to be a part of it – even the small part I have right now. Of course, it feels good to do good work. It feels good to be part of this small but mighty community working to better women in the GTA. As an empathetic person, this is important to me. I didn’t realize how much so until I reflected on my first month there. 

It is clear to me that the main difference I would experience between this and working for a corporation is that rather than working for people, I would work to sell a good or service. I have spent most of my working life (10 years – oof) in customer service. A tiny amount of that in sales. I am the worst person to work in sales, because if I offer the good to someone and they don’t want it, I’d say, “OK, cool.” I’m just not interested in changing their minds to purchase something. But I do feel inclined to try to change someone’s mind about giving money to support a cause. 

That being said, I don’t have any experience yet working in a communications capacity for a corporation. I may feel OK with nurturing the brand of a corporation. Instead of thinking of it though my previous lens that was more sales associate, I believe I’d thrive in “selling” the brand, the idea, the events of a corporation I work for. That feels more in line with my skills and comfort level, because it goes back to that feeling of working “for the people.” I would be cultivating a cohesive and trustworthy brand that offers goods and/or services that will better someone’s experience. Shifting my mindset in this way has settled my discomfort and uncertainty of “going corporate.” 

We’ll see where I end up, I suppose. I’m pretty open to all opportunities at this time since I’m just a baby PR practitioner in the grand scheme of things. I don’t want to limit myself by being closed off to ideas, teams, or people. I believe the best way to progress in life is to be open and apply yourself fully. 

That’s the only way to know what you want to do and where you want to go. You have to try things out, even if they scare you, or even if you’re unsure about them. You likely won’t get yourself into a bad situation if you trust your gut and take a leap. Know that everything is temporary. If you aren’t fulfilled in a new job or you’re not clicking in a new workspace after you’ve given it your all, move elsewhere. But you’ll never know where you truly belong if you don’t try things out and follow your journey. 

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