The structure of mentorships varies widely: Mentorships can be formal or informal, of a short, fixed duration or open-ended. Mentorship could simply be a casual arrangement—monthly lunches or a phone call every few months—initiated by an individual in a new position who occasionally seeks out a more experienced colleague’s advice on a particular strategy or project. Can’t find a mentor…hire a career coach to accelerate your next career move?
2. Become like a laser beam and focus your energy on a mission that you are passionate about.
An expert as defined by Merriam Webster is: having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience. You need to decide and then focus your energy to grain training and experience. It will be more fun to research, learn, network, and attend trainings in an area that you get really excited about. You may find that developing your expertise in a particular area actually produces career leads searching you out because of your deep knowledge.
3. Conduct a needs assessment on the strategic community you want to serve.
Once you have focused your energy on a particular mission you can research more deeply. What do you need to learn or do to add high value to the community or organization? When you deeply research and learn what are some of the big challenges facing a particular community you begin to build your credibility and expertise in that sector.
Use action verbs for a better reaction. Be sure each bullet in your Professional Experience section starts with an action verb or adverb. Research action verbs in the nonprofit or social enterprise industry and use them strategically.
Selling through spelling! Proofread your resume at least three times. Have a friend, colleague or career coach review it as well. You sell yourself more effectively when you spell correctly.
Prioritize and organize your bullets. Review the top five responsibilities of the job for which you are applying and highlight your achievements accordingly. Move the most important and targeted achievements to the top of the bulleted list.
Qualify, don’t mystify. Do not leave your prospective employer trying to guess how effective you were at a past job. Include hard statistics if possible. Did you increase donations by 30% or increase volunteer recruitment by 50%, for example? How did your efforts ultimately affect the outcome of the program?
Volunteer work is part of your career. Where is your volunteer experience highlighted on your resume? It should either be the first thing listed under your Experience (if you are making a transition from for-profit to nonprofit) or intertwined with your nonprofit experience (if you have paid nonprofit experience).
What are some of your guaranteed positive return on investment (ROI) when you strategically volunteer?
To find a new job
An excellent way to land a job at a nonprofit is to volunteer for the organization. You will get the opportunity to learn about its culture and make sure that you are comfortable with the management style of the nonprofit. Others in your work environment will learn how much you care and can bring to the organization. I know a woman named Megan who loves horses. Megan decided to volunteer at Ironstone Farms where horses are used to help kids with disabilities. After Megan had volunteered for the organization for three years, she was offered a brand new position as Director of Development. I would argue that she landed the position because her years of devoted volunteer work showed that she had a true passion for the organization’s mission. I have seen people get hired from volunteering in as little as six weeks and as much as six or more years. The most important thing is to be volunteering with an organization whose mission really inspires you, whether or not it leads to paid work with that particular nonprofit.
To meet a business associate (Network)
Where did you make your last important business connection? Did you immediately have a sense of trust for that person and his business? The more that business associates trust one another, the better collaboration can take place. I met Paul Hutchison of Hutchinson Consulting, with whom I currently run trainings workshops, while volunteering at Career Collaborative. I also met my current marketing consultant, Melissa of MGD Design, while volunteering at a nonprofit supper program last year. I felt sure that they would be individuals I could trust, especially since we met at a places where volunteers give of themselves without expecting to get any material benefit in return.
To meet new friends and build social trust
It can be hard to meet new people or build social trust quickly when you are new in town or have just moved across the city. If you are out of work or have fragile social connections, find a place to volunteer. Volunteering is an excellent way to get out of the house and meet some great like-minded people. I have had the pleasure of making some wonderful friends while volunteering. Whether the work is just for the day or longer-term on a board, when you are volunteering for a cause that is near and dear to your heart, you often meet people with your values. I have known people who have met their roommate, even their soul mate, while doing volunteer work that was powered by a shared passion and trust.
To build a community network
One of the major hurdles that many people encounter in their careers is that they have not kept a detailed record or database of their professional network. Volunteering for a local nonprofit can be an excellent way to grow your contacts in the community where you live or work, thus building your civic engagement. The larger the network, the more people can help you, and the more people you can help.
To sharpen your old skills
Do you have an old skill or two that you no longer use in your current job? Volunteering can help you sharpen your old skills, whether they be in event management, bookkeeping, fundraising, marketing or even painting. Volunteering your time and skills to a nonprofit that you feel drawn to, and that could use your help and expertise, can lead to valuable experience in a specific area.
To teach someone a new skill
What skill or body of knowledge can you pass on to someone else? Whether it be teaching a cooking class to a youth group, helping someone to learn English, or communicating your knowledge of computer programs, your skills can go a long way to make a difference in someone else’s life. You may find that when you teach someone a new skill, you learn the material at a deeper level. Some say when you teach once you actually learn twice. When you volunteer in this way, you will also be building your self confidence and self-esteem.
To bring more joy into your life (Self-Gratification)
Think back to your last volunteer experience. Did a fellow volunteer, the volunteer coordinator, or perhaps a client of the nonprofit smile at you and thank you for your assistance? When you smiled back, did you get a great feeling of purpose? Serotonin is wonderful chemical released in the brain that gives you a “happy” feeling, and it seems to help keep our moods under control by helping with sleep, calming anxiety, and relieving depression. During all my years of volunteering, I have always felt a lot of joy. Even if you are tired after a long day of volunteer work, chances are you will feel happier with higher levels of serotonin because you have helped someone!
To improve your health
Research has demonstrated that stressful living causes excess weight gain and has other adverse effects on your health. By building your self-esteem, your confidence, your love, and your joy, you will discover how to live a less stressful life and overcome unhealthy habits. We have all heard that the buildup of stress can be unhealthy, to the point of being life-threatening. When you feel better about yourself and are truly grateful for what you have, you are less likely to eat the wrong foods or have too much to drink. When your heart is full, you will be less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Research has also shown that when you are more positive, it actually helps lower your blood pressure and strengthen your body in many other ways. Volunteering has many positive after effects including improved physical and mental health. A sense of purpose and belonging have also been shown to increase happiness and decrease depression. If you volunteer regularly, you will be on a path to living a less stressful life and having a healthier mind and body because of it.
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.
In my workshops, I always make it a point to say, “The biggest favor you can give yourself in the interview is to be on time.” If you are late, you have already decided your fate, and it will not be a positive outcome for you at the company. It is often said that the best reference for future employee outlook is past experience. If you are showing up late, it tells the hiring manager you will probably be late to work and to meetings in the future.
At a job interview your goal is to make a great first impression, not only because of your skills, but also because of your overall presentation and attitude. Here are five ingredients that will improve your chances.
Be early. Arrive 10-15 minutes early and make light conversation with the receptionist or front desk attendant, if they don’t seem too busy.
Have a purpose and prepare. Practice produces positive energy and confidence. After studying the organization’s website, come up with a minimum of three questions about the organization. Do a practice interview with a friend, family member or career coach, to help you minimize interview questions that might catch you off guard.
Beam with positive self-esteem. Smile often during your interview. It is common to be nervous during a job interview, and we tend not to smile as much when we are anxious. If you don’t smile, the interviewer may wonder if you really want the job or not. Make good eye contact, and do what you can to be sure the interviewer sees you in a positive light.
Dress to impress. My father always told me it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. A favorite suit, or a not-too-short dress, will help you feel self-confident. Keep in mind that those making the hiring decision may be of a more conservative generation or mindset than those in your group of friends. Be sure you are neatly groomed, and avoid a new growth of beard, untidy hair, etc. And long artificial fingernails may make the interviewer wonder if you can type on a keyboard!
Be generous with your thanks. Thank your prospective employers three times if you hope to be called back for a second interview or a job offer. First, thank each interviewer for his or her time at the beginning of the interview. Second, before you leave, thank each person for the information and thoughtful feedback that was given to you.. Third, send or bring a “thank you letter” afterward. It is ideal to drop it off in person. The second choice would be snail mail; the third option is email.