Leaving a job you are unhappy with too soon can be a mistake. Not having a career strategy in place before you leave can be costly, not only for your bank account but for your mental health and confidence too.
If you feel burnt out by your current job, take a mini vacation and start to develop your career plan with a mentor or career coach. Look to strategic volunteering as one great way to focus your career transition. Strategic volunteering not only can help build valuable skills, but can also expand your professional network, leading you to your next job with purpose.
Not uncovering your “why” prior to your search
Looking to work for a global nonprofit organization? Looking to become the next director of development of your local school? Not knowing your “why” of why you want to make the career transition can be a career blunder. Uncovering which organization is going to be the best match for you in your career transition can be tricky. You will need a better story to tell about why you want to make the career transition than “I didn’t get any satisfaction from my past job,” or “I want to make a bigger impact in my next job.”
Start with the mission you are most drawn towards, one that will demonstrate your passion in the job interview. Be prepared to explain why you are focused on the company and their work (make sure to do your homework online and know their projects inside and out). Many of my clients did not chase the job but rather the mission. Once they were engaged with the mission, they were able show the value they would bring to the organization, making it much easier to make a successful career transition.
Dozens of my clients who have made successful career transitions tried to make the leap on their own before seeking professional career coaching help. Most of them unfortunately wasted a lot of valuable time. Being accountable to yourself, while staying motivated, can be difficult when you feel like you are all alone in your job quest.
Often a career transition will necessitate a new career network with fresh professional connections. It can be hard to know where to start making new connections, one place to start is Meetup.com as an example of an on-line portal that could help expand your current network. In addition, volunteering has been linked to a 27% higher odd of employment.
Learning new strategies and thinking outside the box are important during your career transition. Career coaches are a great resource as you are preparing and searching for new meaningful work. Propel your purpose with us on Twitter or Facebook.
Powerful questions you must ask at the end of the interview.
What is your #1 concern about my candidacy?
What are the next steps in the interview process?
Asking about their #1 concern shows guts and confidence that you are the right person for the job. You can also follow-up on your answer to their concern in your thank you letter and/or email.
Asking about next steps insures you can strategically plan your follow-up thank you notes and helps you understand their hiring timeline. This will help ease your post-interview stress.
Make it your business to get their card.
If the interviewer does not give you their card, make sure to take the lead and ask for it. The business card can have helpful information on it such as their Twitter or LinkedIn handle. Bonus tip: Make some inexpensive business cards on Vistaprint that you can use when interviewing and networking. Make sure to include your areas of expertise, your blog or online portfolio and your contact information, including your LinkedIn address.
Be twice as nice and double down on your thank you note.
Now that you know the next step in the process and you have a better idea of their hiring timeline, you can strategically plan your follow-up. If you are in development, management or sales, for example, I highly recommend dropping off a personal handwritten thank you note after the interview. Make sure to include why they should hire you and address their #1 concern again. You can follow-up via email 24 hours after your interview as well.
Create value with each of your follow-up messages.
7-10 days after the interview and you still have not heard anything? It’s smart to stay on their radar and re-state your interest. Show the organization you were listening during the interview when they said they wanted more data collection help or creative ideas for their next annual gala. Send them some data collection tips or a short list of creative events they could host next year. Did your interviewer mention something about loving sushi? Email them Opentable’s top 10 local sushi restaurants. Going the extra mile in your follow-up strategy can separate you from the competition. You are not the only candidate following up with them, but you can make your follow-up memorable.
Keep forward momentum by staying connected and active.
Now that you have strategically followed up, you need to stay connected to your network and keep up the momentum. Grab a coffee with your mentor, folks in your alumni network, or your neighbor. Continue to network and stay active in your sector. Does your targeted organization have a Facebook group that organizes regular outings/events/seminars you could join or attend? Get to the gym, do some yoga and continue to apply for other positions. Staying active will keep up the momentum and help distract you a bit from the past interview.
Follow these tips and take action after each of your interviews. Learning new strategies and thinking outside the box are important at work and with your job search. Career coaches are a great resource as you are preparing and searching for new meaningful work. Stay connected with us on Twitter or Facebook.
Have you ever heard that the best predictor of future success is past performance? There are a few exceptions but showing your results on your resume with numbers is a must to help show the nonprofit of your impact in the past.
If you are looking to get a call back on your resume for a nonprofit or social enterprise then remember this:
Numbers = value = impact
Organizations will be much more willing to call you if they can clearly see your value and not hunt for it on your resume.
Here are some examples:
Candidate #1: Order and organize supplies for nonprofit office
Candidate #2:Order supplies for 10 programs and was able to streamline process that resulted in saving the organization over $5,000 in office supply expenses in 2015
Candidate #1: Managed annual gala and luncheons for the organization
Candidate #2: Managed annual gala that raised 30% more due to expanded social media outreach and sponsorships, raising a total of $110,000 in 2015
In both examples candidate one and two have done the same thing, but in both examples candidate #2 uses numbers to clearly show value and thus showing the impact they can have at their next nonprofit job.
To start building your list is outcomes and accomplishments begin by writing out 10 things you have done at your job and then ask yourself, how big, how many, how long, how much you saved or how much you raised.
Answered a multiline phone system and greeted guests at the front desk
Answered 20 line phone system and greeted more than 100 guests with world class customer service
Numbers help to tell a story of your impact. Make sure you are using numbers to tell your impactful story for your nonprofit resume. Come join the growing community on twitter at @careers4purpose or join my Facebook group Propel Your Purpose.
As Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In this new economy, the best way to stand out from the crowd is to give value before you are paid for it.
I like to call this “strategic volunteering”. You create a list of the top 5-10 organizations where you would really like to work and grow professionally and then you build a plan on how best to approach them to add value to their team.
Here are some real examples of clients, colleagues and family that have successfully landed paid positions with nonprofits they love (names have been changed):
Margaret was a financial professional for over 20 years. She made a decision to make a career change, doing much research and “soul searching” prior to creating her list of desired organizations. Margaret and I, as her career coach, did a lot of brainstorming to come up with a list of 5 local organizations that she was drawn to in the low-income human services sector.
Margaret then approached the organizations for an “informational interview” about the possibility of volunteering for them. In the end, 75% of the organizations said yes to an “interview”. After meeting with the executive or manager at these organizations, she decided on the best mission and cultural fit for her. Margaret volunteered for a little over six weeks at a local food pantry and was offered a full-time position as their business manager.
Ed had been working in the property management industry for over 12 years and ended up getting downsized. Ed had been out of work for more than two years and the concept of strategic volunteering sounded counter-intuitive to him. After some time reflecting, Ed decided the environmental sector was his greatest interest and he had even done some volunteering with in the past. Ed narrowed his search and ultimately started volunteering with a local environmental organization.
While strategic volunteering, Ed got took a class and received an environmental certificate. After a few months of volunteering and giving value, Ed was approached by one of the board members of the organization about a job at different environmental organization. Ed had shown he was passionate about the sector, showed up with a great attitude and put in consistent effort. Ed was offered a paid position with purpose, not only because he was qualified but because he was referred by the “right” person.
Samuels Creating the Schmooze
Robbie Samuels (real name) was new to Boston. For over a year prior to moving to Boston, he had visited the city regularly to build relationships with new friends, learn his way around,, and investigate the organizations he hoped to work for.
At least once a month, he volunteered for Fenway Health’s outreach program. After a few months he was offered the opportunity to be a lead volunteer, in charge of setting up the outreach table and training new volunteers. He accepted this position and was then in more regular contact with staff at Fenway Health. He also signed up to volunteer at the AIDS Action Committee’s AIDS Walk in Boston. He knew that he needed to stand out in a crowd of volunteers, so he offered to help out the day prior to their event, as well as the day of the event. The morning of the walk, he was asked to take a leadership volunteer role. AIDS Action staff knew him and knew that he could be counted on.
When he applied a couple of months later to positions at both of these organizations, he had a strategic advantage that was not available to him a year prior. Stepping off the elevator for his first interview at AIDS Action, he ran into the Volunteer Coordinator who greeted him by name. She then told the hiring manager how helpful he had been at the AIDS Walk. Similarly, when he applied for the Fenway Health position, he had a connection on staff that helped his resume get reviewed. After months of job searching and applying to dozens of organizations, he received a job offer from both of these organizations.
One of the biggest challenges I see candidates face when looking to work in the nonprofit or social impact space is focusing their search. Once you are able to narrow your focus to a handful of organizations, it is easier to network and build a strategy to translate your strategic volunteering to a paid position.
I started the blog post with a quote so I will end with another by the famous Mark Twain “Actions speak louder than words.” Take action and strategically volunteer for a mission and culture you love and great things will begin to happen in your life. I know of at least half a dozen people who have even found the love of their life through volunteering. . Looking for more strategies on volunteering? Read my book Strategic Volunteering: 50 Ingredients to transform your life and career.
Choosing your mission is a journey and starts with identifying what values and interests are MOST important to you and what you enjoy doing the most. This does not have to be a lengthy self-assessment but rather a thoughtful look at what has been most important to you in your life. What do you absolutely love doing? What problems do to you love to solve? What do you like to teach to others?
When you’re making a career switch, focus on one sector to research and become really familiar with that industry. Trying to research many different types of social impact organizations can feel unmanageable, will take more time and will make it harder to network. The more focused your resume, cause letter (cover letter) and professional profiles are positioned for your new target sector, the better.
Do yourself a favor and focus on one main sector to pursue for your switch. If you’re switching sectors, stay in the same function – i.e. if you’re currently in sales in one industry and you want to switch sectors, target fundraising and development in the nonprofit sector – not some new role, like administration.
The Red Cross was started by volunteers before it became an international nonprofit organization. Michael Jordan payed basketball for the fun of it, and did not get paid for it early in his career. Madonna was singing before she was a music sensation. I started coaching friends on careers before I became a paid career coach. The point is if you are doing something because you love it and not getting paid, this is a great path to figuring out which career path to take and make an even bigger impact.
It can be very challenging to try and uncover your purpose at any given time in your life. God knows I have struggled with uncovering mine at times. Please find 10 questions below that have helped many of my clients and me begin to bring to light our true purpose. Food for thought, the way I like to think about your purpose is that it will give you the fuel to feed your passion.
Please answer the following questions as best you can.
Why do you want a career for purpose?
What do you love to do at work?
What are you doing when you feel most alive/beautiful?
What is your favorite hobby?
What did you love to do when you were 13?
What is always in the back of your mind?
Was there a career (or part of the job) that your parents do/did that you loved? If so, what is/was it?
What community/population do you love to serve/support?
What problems do you love to solve?
What would you like to stop doing?
Want more questions? Still a bit confused? Contact me here for 13 more questions to find your purpose.
You deserve a job you love in 2015 In my mind and heart, you’re awesome…blessed with wonderful gifts, and when focused–will yield a happy life full of impact, innovation and meaning. I believe you can make a big difference in the lives of others and will propel your purpose this year. After more than 4 years and hundreds of hours of research and practice, the long awaited launch of our powerful and unique webinar series to help accelerate your career for purpose has launched. We are only accepting the first 15 professional students so we can spend quality time with everyone. Small class…BIG IMPACT! This one month class schedule are below with bonuses:
January 19th at 7pm EST: Uncovering your purpose
January 26th at 7pm EST: Developing your powerful purpose resume
February 2nd at 7pm EST: Creating your effective Causeletter (Coverletter)
February 9th at 7pm EST: Powerful interview strategies for Career For Purpose
Bonus 1: Access to special social enterprise on-line resources
Bonus 2: February 16th at 7pm EST: Q&A to answer anything you want (Telemseminar)
Six Ingredients of A Memorable Cover Letter For a Mission Focused Organization
1. Stories Store themselves in the reader’s mind. A short personal story near the beginning of your cover letter can hook the person reading it, if it is concise and clearly relevant. A story that speaks to why you want be part of the mission and team of the organization will always be more memorable than dry statistics from your past employment. Make a lasting positive memory for your prospective employer and remember that “stories store” themselves in the mind.
2. Research Rewards those who make the effort. Are you used to addressing your cover letter to “recruiter” or “hiring manager?” Research the company to find out the best person to send your resume to. Take the initiative by calling the organization and asking the name of the person who is receiving applications. Other options are to use LinkedIn, current employees or the organization’s website. You may wish to combine your research and a story with the mission statement of the organization in a clever way, to grab the attention of the nonprofit.
3. Give them what they want. Carefully review the job description and posting, then state your experience with actual examples (bullet points are great) that demonstrate that you have the desired skills and qualifications. If the company is looking for someone with program management experience, make sure you speak to your experience in that area. For example, “I have six years of program management experience and have been acknowledged for leading the team with the biggest growth in the organization.” Show clearly through your specific examples that you would be a good fit for the position and organization.
4. Showing is knowing. One common mistake that many people make in their cover letter is stating their qualifications but not backing them up with clear examples to support their case. Are you applying for a program manager position? Include specific achievements of yours that speak to the skills and qualifications needed. Pull out one or two events from your previous work experience and write them up in detail (but concisely, of course) in the body of your cover letter.
5. The Power of Persistence. Trust can be a major factor in the job search. For example, trust is a part of the foundation that networking and referrals are built on. Finish your cover letter with a pledge to follow-up in about ten days. Start building trust by taking action and following up when you said you would. Take control of your job search and offer to help the prospective employer: “If you wish, I will help facilitate a meeting for us and will contact you in ten days.” If you leave a voicemail, feel free to send an email .follow-up. Persistence can be a powerful tool when it is polite and professional. Of course, if the job description states, “No phone calls”, be sure to respect this.
6. Proof read to lead and get ahead of the competition. Employers may be weary of looking at cover letters with careless mistakes. It is a sound recipe for success to re-read your cover letter more than once. Get a friend, family member, or career coach to read over the document for any typos, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. A new perspective and another pair of eyes may see things that you may have missed.
Career transition? Focus on your mission not on your resume.
Most people start a career change by trying to re-write their resume. Having interviewed over 10,000 individuals in the nonprofit arena, I can’t tell you how important it is to start, instead, by identifying and defining your ideal career. Don’t get me wrong, a well-written resume is an important step in the career transition process, but it should not lead your career change. A more effective and sustainable alternative is to start with clarifying and nailing down your mission or purpose.
What is your vocational mission?
Choosing your vocational mission is a journey that starts with identifying what values and interests are MOST important to you and what you enjoy doing the most. Your vocational mission, you may find, may not stray far from your life’s mission or the goals you hope to achieve in your future. Identifying your mission does not have to be a lengthy self-assessment but rather a thoughtful look at what has been most important to you in your life. What do you absolutely love doing? What brings joy to you every time you do it?
Two major factors to focus on while identifying and clarifying your career purpose or vocational mission are:
– Cultural fit
Some people ask “Why not start with my existing skills when making a career change to the nonprofit sector?”. Richard Nelson Bolles, the author of What Color Is Your Parachute? addresses this issue in the Parachute workbook. He states, “…experience has shown to be true: If it is a skill you do well, you will generally enjoy it. If it is a skill you enjoy, it is generally because you do it well.”
When making a career transition it is much more useful to assess your skills and interests with the question, “Do I enjoy doing it?” rather than, “Am I capable of doing it?”.
Interests are a key factor when making the transition to the social sector. What do you love doing? What do you want to stay away from or avoid? What makes you fulfilled or extremely happy? Think of past volunteer or personal experiences that gave you a sense of purpose or pride. Think of issues or causes that have touched you personally.
As you think about these interests, identify which populations or causes really speak to you. For example if you love working with children, then Big Brother Big Sisters might be a great organization to pursue. If cancer has touched your family, you might be interested in working with those helping to find a cure for breast cancer, so the Susan G. Komen Foundation or similar organizations might be a good fit.
When you work in a culture where you are extremely passionate about the goals and motivated to make a difference, you will often find the organizational fit to be a great match as well.
One of the biggest questions to ask yourself is, “Do I like a larger organization or a smaller one?”. In most cases, the smaller the organization is, the more variety of tasks and projects there will be for each individual to manage. The larger the organization, the more focused each staff member’s day to day operations will tend to be. Many career-changers have been working in a large company with a large support team and with access to many resources but may be just fine with a smaller support staff and may be happy to use their skills to manage a variety of tasks in order to help advance the organization. My experience has shown that smaller nonprofits are more flexible with career-changers than larger nonprofits. Many larger nonprofits want someone who has worked in the sector before and are less likely to be able to do on-the-job training.
Say hello to Kim… (Does this sound like you?)
Working with a career coach who is dedicated to the nonprofit sector is an ideal way to help accelerate your career-change. That is what a client of mine, Kim, discovered when she was laid off from her IT job in 2009 after working there for over eight years.
Kim knew that this was just the opportunity to jump into a more fulfilling career in nonprofits, but was getting very frustrated after submitting countless resumes and not receiving a single interview request.
Kim had recently volunteered abroad for a human services organization and was able to use her gift of languages to help youth. As we spoke about this experience, Kim explained why this experience was so special to her. It turns out Kim had been a tutor and peer-mentor as a teen. Kim relayed a story about a particular student she had mentored and recalled what a life-changing experience it had been.
One of the only things Kim was sure about from her experience in the corporate world was that she really enjoyed being part of a small team. She really enjoyed the strong bonds that were built and knew she would like a similar culture in her next job.
After a bit more of research and probing, we came to focus in on local human service nonprofits that focused on serving the growing Asian community. We focused on organizations that were smaller and community-based, which offered Kim the close-knit camaraderie she craved. In addition, these organizations were more likely to acknowledge Kim’s language skills and recent volunteer experience right from the beginning.
Today Kim is a case worker for a local human service organization serving the Asian community. This position focuses on a population she cares deeply about and which she is energized to serve. Because it is a small organization, Kim has close bonds with her co-workers. These small and diverse groups of peers all have a common goal to help and serve this Asian community. The multicultural requirements of the job allow Kim to use her language gifts and knowledge gained from past experiences. Kim has found her career path for social impact by focusing on what she loves and whom she wants to serve. Every day, she is building her character and value through paid nonprofit experience and learning how to make a difference in the daily lives of the population she serves.
Mark McCurdy is President and Founder of Jobs In Nonprofits, LLC and is an expert in careers in nonprofits. Mark is a career strategist who has developed “Impact6”, six key strategies for finding a dream job for social impact. Tune in to “Dream Jobs for Social Impact” at www.blogtalkradio.com/nonprofitcareercoach for inspiring interviews. For further information or to schedule a talk you can reach Mark on Twitter at @jobsnonprofits or email firstname.lastname@example.org.