Top 100 Keywords for Public Service Careers

One of the best suggestions I’ve seen in a while in the job search comes from Martin Yate’s new book, Knock ’em Dead – Secrets and Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World. He suggests creating a Target Job Deconstruction. This entails:

  • Going to any job board, such as,,,, etc., and searching for jobs in your field. (This of course presumes you know the job title you’re looking for, and/or some specific keywords you would use to find your target job. If you are at a loss, refer to the list below.)
  • Copy and paste at least 10-20 job descriptions—regardless of geographic area or even regardless of whether the jobs are out of date—into a Word file.
  • Then analyze these jobs to see what they tend to have in common. Look for specifics, beyond the fuzzy requirements like good communication skills or interpersonal abilities, and into particular job requirements like technical skills, industry-specific jargon and acronyms, and computer software.
  • One step I’ll add is to copy and paste the Word file into, a “word cloud” generator, to see which keywords are repeated most often in the job description.
  • Consider visiting the Skills section of (under the “more” tab on the top right side of the page) to type in some of these skills and see a list of other relevant terms.

After reading thousands of job descriptions in the nonprofit sector, I already know some of the most frequently used keywords. So I’ll make it easy for you. Here are a list of keywords I frequently see for specific job descriptions in nonprofit careers. If these words don’t mean anything to you, it is a sign that you may need to develop more hands-on experience in the sector, through volunteering if need be, before attempting a transition into the field. If you have obtained experience or training that allows you to use these terms in your resume, then be sure to pepper your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile with these and similar terms before you apply for that next nonprofit job.


  • Stakeholder outreach/analysis
  • Research
  • Management
  • Communications/writing
  • Strategic planning
  • Fundraising
  • Demonstrated commitment to/passion for the mission


  • Relationship management, outreach, collaboration, team
  • Evaluation
  • Budget
  • Planning, project management
  • Stakeholder outreach
  • Volunteer coordination
  • Management/supervision
  • Outcomes metrics
  • Implementation
  • Strategy
  • Operations
  • Constituents/clients/customers/beneficiaries/students


  • Prospect research/qualification
  • Cultivation/engagement
  • Solicitation/closing
  • Stewardship
  • Raiser’s Edge, Donor Perfect, SalesForce (and similar databases)
  • Events, galas
  • Major gifts
  • Corporate/foundation relations
  • Annual giving/capital campaign/endowments
  • Grant writing
  • Fundraising/advancement/development plan


  • Finance, budgeting
  • Accounting
  • Excel, Peachtree, GreatPlains
  • Nonprofit budgeting
  • 990


  • Research
  • SPSS, STATA, statistics, Excel
  • Legislative research/policy
  • Understanding of political process
  • Writing/memo writing
  • Presentation skills/public speaking


  • Fundraising (see fundraising section)
  • Strategic planning
  • Board relations/governance
  • Visioning /leadership
  • Management/supervision/mentoring of staff
  • Public speaking/serving as public “face” of the organization
  • Partnership-building
  • Budgets/finance/financial management/oversight


  • Grassroots/grass-tops
  • Campaign
  • Stakeholders
  • Petition
  • Get-out-the-vote (GOTV)
  • Political judgment; policy experience


  • Media relations/contacts with journalists in traditional and new media
  • Writing, press releases
  • Crisis communication
  • Social media strategy, Facebook, Twitter
  • Web content strategy, web content management, Drupal, HTML
  • Email systems (Convio, Constant Contact, PowerBase)
  • Campaigns
  • Video editing


  • Arc GIS/GIS mapping
  • Biology, ecology, forestry, environmental science, engineering
  • Fundraising
  • NEPA, SEQA, environmental legislation


  • Full lifecycle recruiting
  • HR regulations/compliance
  • Talent pipeline
  • Hiring managers
  • Organizational development
  • Benefits
  • Compensation
  • Bargaining units/labor negotiations/unionized environment
  • Matrixed environment


  • Foreign languages: Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Chinese, Spanish, French
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene; sustainable development; international development economics; maternal/child health; agriculture; microfinance; governance/democracy
  • USAID funding/requirements
  • Monitoring & evaluation
  • Value chain


  • K-12; K-22
  • Educational outcomes/ education reform/ teacher evaluation
  • Achievement gap

What words have I left out?

Ask about my public service career coaching.

One thought on “Top 100 Keywords for Public Service Careers

  1. Pingback: Best 40 Websites With Buzzwords For Resume – Melanie Kerrots

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s