The Career Path to Nonprofit: an Unexpected - but Rewarding! - Journey

Stasia Lopez's picture

Julie Padak is a Human Resources Specialist for Partners For Quality, Inc. She’s been working for PFQ since November 2007. Julie earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Robert Morris University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources and Marketing and a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management. Read her interview below to learn more about her experiences. 

 an Unexpected - but Rewarding! - Journey

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose the college[s] you chose? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process?

I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do. I figured something in business, so I chose a major that I thought I’d be most interested in and hoped for the best! It’s worked out well.

I applied to Robert Morris University and was notified pretty early in the fall of my senior year that my application had been accepted. I had toured the school, viewed their business program, and was eager to start. It was a pretty easy decision!  

Did you always want to work in nonprofit/NGO work? 

I was pretty unfamiliar with the non-profit world prior to my current job and never really thought about seeking employment specifically within this sector. However, I am very happy that my career path has led me this way!

Where did you attend college, what did you major in? How did you gain experiences to prepare you for the work you currently do now?

I attended Robert Morris University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. My Bachelor’s degree is a B.S.B.A majoring in Human Resources and Marketing and my Master’s degree is in Human Resources Management.

During my undergraduate program I completed an eight month internship in HR. It was a great opportunity to gain exposure to the day to day responsibilities within an HR department. 
What are some of the challenges about your job? How do you tackle those challenges?

Not enough qualified candidates to fill the jobs in the social services / health care field. So many people are in need of services but there is just not the volume of employees to keep up with the pace. Also, the wages and salaries within non-profits are not as desirable as many would like. 

Both are truly external factors but we do our best to motivate and recognize our staff to create a more supportive, enjoyable and rewarding work environment.

What is the interview process like for this organization? Any tips for interns or people seeking a job with the organization?

All applicants must go through our online Applicant Tracking System. Qualified and selected candidates are screened by phone as the initial process. We then have a multi-step interview process. The first interview is with a representative from the Human Resources Department and / or the department director. The second interview is with the hiring supervisor / Executive Director. 

What do you currently do to achieve work/life balance? Any advice for students, graduates, and entry-level professionals that you could provide?

I get to enjoy 5 weeks of accrued Paid Time Off each year. It is definitely nice to have enough time off accrued to take off as needed!

Also, I earn comp time which affords me the opportunity to get some flexibility in my schedule (leave early, come in a bit late or schedule a personal appointment).

What are the benefits/perks of your job?

Employees accrue between 4 to 6 weeks of PTO each year. Accrual rate increases with years of service. Additionally, certain parts of the organization also accrue Sick Time (6 days per year).

We offer 2 very reasonable health insurance plans for employees to choose from along with a dental and vision plan. Life Insurance is equivalent to one year’s salary of the employee.
Certain parts of the organization have the opportunity to purchase supplemental insurance through AFLAC. A Pension is started for employees after one year of service and they are vested after three years of service. The organization contributes 3% to each employee’s pension based on their annual salary. Employees may also open a 403(b) if they would like to contribute to their retirement.

Our Activities and Rewards Committees do a great job in planning and organizing events for staff and managing recognition programs!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Make the most of your job and enjoy what you do!



Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.


Photo courtesy and copyright Julie Padak