Switch Up Your Game: Four Pragmatic Tips For Jobseekers (And Future Jobseekers) In a Rut by Steve Strang

Searching for a job can easily be one of the most exhausting and least rewarding processes you are forced to take part in. We are all aware of what the recession did to the overall job market and the nonprofit sector, in particular, making the nonprofit professional world feel nearly impossible to join or advance through.

As one of the Board Chairs for YNPN Chicago, I frequently get invited to talk about young professionals working in the nonprofit sector. As a young professional myself, I have had my fair share of job hunting experience and have plenty to share on the topic. Now, don’t worry, I’m aware that many professionals are sick of hearing about cover letters, informational interviews, and idealist.org. So, here are four different tips that I share each time I present on job seeking that should help make your search more successful.

1) Applying for a job is a not a task, it’s a process
One of the lines I hear frequently when talking to job seekers is, “I feel like I have applied for hundreds of jobs online with nothing to show!” Deep down I want to reply, “So stop doing that.” If you truly want a successful job search you need to focus your efforts and go beyond the application. Do your research, make connections, educate yourself on the organization, and follow up. It’s much more effective to apply to five jobs with a full process than fifty jobs through a blind application.

2) Research is more important than you think
Sure, in 2007 I applied for a job in Denver randomly online and was hired. But it’s not 2007 anymore. Since that application I have found out how important research can be – and made sure to spend time on it before applying. Some of the things I have typically researched include: Looking up the staff (and former staff), spending time browsing LinkedIn for connections, and checking out their 990 tax forms. Leave no fact unturned, you might only have one chance to make your impression. It’s not “cheating” to look into it and see that you and the CEO went to the same college and then sneak that fact into the interview. Use all of that information to your advantage. (But also walk that fine line of looking like a creep!)

You should be totally done researching a company when you apply. If you need a litmus test, ask yourself: “If they call tomorrow, will I be ready for an interview?”

3) Keep your finger on the pulse
You’ve found your dream job! But what if a ‘dreamier’ job opens up and you miss it next year? What happens if you get laid-off next month without warning? This happened to a lot of professionals who lost their job in the recession and when dealing with the aftermath many had the same reflection: they should have done a better job staying connected to the market. Getting comfortable in a job is important, but getting complacent can make your next job hunt nearly impossible. You should always have your LinkedIn page up to date, keep networking outside of work (see #4), and continuously push yourself to learn more and more in your profession.

4) Network and build relationships with people more important than yourself
Unless you are a certain “Chicago-resident-federal-employee” you are probably not the most important person in your field. While networking with our peers is very important, it is equally or more important to build a relationship with those who could be hiring you for your next job. Attend events such as the Donor’s Forum Annual Luncheon or the Axelson Center Nonprofit Symposium (among others!), where a lot of senior employees go to network and learn, themselves.

Can’t make these events? Another route is to ask your supervisor if you can attend some meetings with him/her (or even better – for him/her) as professional development.

So there they are, my four tips to advance your current or future job search. I know following these guidelines has been very helpful for me, and hopefully, they’ll be instrumental for you, too, as you navigate your next move up!

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips to share with our YNPN community!

About the author: Steve Strang, MPA is a Consultant with Spectrum Nonprofit Services where he provides consulting and training in sustainability strategies for community-based organizations.  Steve’s experience within the nonprofit field includes fundraising and development training, managing outreach and membership, and leadership development.

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