Over the past few months, I have been in the thick of job searching along with a career shift. My background is in higher education and nonprofit (501c7 to be specific), but I want to dive into the nonprofit sector (501c3) specifically involving fundraising/development. Specifically, I want to stay in CT which narrows my search even more.
This blog post is not intended to scare you to stay in your current role for the next 35 years. You know yourself the best and what you are capable of, but there is a reality that comes with changing careers/fields. It is not easy!
Don’t settle: I have applied for numerous jobs - some have been lower level, some have met my experience level while others were a reach. Through the interview process, I want you to listen to your gut. Do not settle! How would you know if you were settling? I want you to envision how long you can see yourself at this job. As a woman who is job searching in the senior level market, options are limited. I know I can get addicted to my job and burn out quickly. I also know what parts of the job will engage me and challenge me. Year one is always observation, trial and error, and towards the end, you begin your plan for year two. If you can’t see yourself past year two, this job isn’t for you. In a senior level position, they are looking for longevity.
Know your worth: Know your worth, know you bring something very valuable to the table! Asking about the salary is NOT a bad thing. Recently I advanced to a third round interview with a local nonprofit. I asked about the salary listed on Indeed wondering if it was negotiable. I was told there was little room for negotiation. As you enter the job search, map out your budget. What is the lowest you will go? You need a baseline, but you also need to be realistic. If you know you are going to be unhappy and the pay isn’t great, why entertain the idea? I turned down advancing to the final interview because it was a huge pay cut. If this is going to be my career that I give 125% to, I need more money. Also, review the job description with the pay - some job descriptions do not match what the company is offering as a salary. This will help you identify your worth and negotiate for a salary that feels right. Some jobs do not pay much for everything they want to accomplish. If you are in the entry level market, this will be your reality until you have at least 5 years experience under your belt. I promise the frustrations will be worth it!
Maximize your resume/cover letter: I was working with a temp agency, yes this can be helpful if you want to try something temporarily, but it is a process to get hired as well. So what field do you want to go into? What exactly is the job? I am positive you have experiences but you are not articulating the skills needed well enough in your resume or cover letter. Use your cover letter to your advantage! I prefer reading CV’s that have bullet points - what am I going to get from you if hired? From reading a resume, I promise recruiters are not reading in between the lines. For example: I want to go into fundraising. I need to highlight I served on a nonprofit sponsorship committee, how we obtained sponsors, money, time, etc. I need to use my examples to tell my story. I can't sell myself short with my resume by having it read I was just a board member for a nonprofit. Don’t let someone assume for you. My other recommendation is to have a friend read your resume and ask him/her to tell you what they gleaned from it. Is this the story you want the recruiter to glean? If yes, keep it. If not, tweak it.
PS - Use a career objective if you are shifting fields. Two to three sentences will suffice to inform the reader why you are applying to the job and how you can be an asset to the company.
Patience: The hardest time to job search is quarter four, end of year. If you can avoid this, please do. Why is it challenging? The end of the year is the focus - sales, obtaining donors, closing deals, vacations, holidays, and so on. You will receive a lot of out of office replies, delays in next steps and more. When I was job searching in 2016, it took 2.5 months to hear about next steps when the first two interviews took place in October. I finally heard back from the company in January 2017! Have patience with the process. Again, if you can push off your search to the new year, do it!
Resources: Take advantage of LinkedIn Premium (less than $30). It has been helpful to see who is viewing my profile and what searches I am showing up in. Don’t be afraid to reach out to LinkedIn connections who work for a company you are interested in working for. It is helpful to understand the culture, their experience, and if you can list them as a reference (if the company asks if you have a friend who works there). I applied for a few jobs at my ex-boyfriend’s company. You bet I reached out to him to say “Hey I would love your help! I applied to your company and the application asks if I know anyone internally. Would it be ok if I list you?”. Granted, no interview came from this, but I reached out to my resources for help. There is no shame in asking for help! I also have enjoyed using Glass Door where I can see salaries and reviews of the company. Glass Door is an app that allows you to apply for jobs, see what people think of the company, personal testimonies, and so on! Glass Door is free.
Reflect: This time has helped me reflect on my purpose. Watch Simon Sinek’s “Find Your Why” and do the homework. Why were you placed on this earth? What are your gifts? How are you using these gifts? I know my heart is in contributing to the world’s work. I want to raise money for students to have access to education or providing a safe space for domestic violence survivors. I want to improve the life of a college student and be that person I needed during my undergraduate years. I know I can think high level, big picture, and strategy. I know I cannot settle for an entry-level position. I know I would get bored. Take time to reflect - what sets your soul on fire? When do you feel alive? What have you enjoyed about your former jobs? What is your ideal workplace? From there, manifest. Manifest what you want to feel on a day to day basis with your next move. Do you want to feel like a boss or a bum? Do you want to feel like your work is making an impact or do you want to hit sales goals every day? Those questions are up to you to answer. Write it out. Get it off your chest.
My job search does not come close to rainbows and puppies. It feels defeating when I receive a rejection letter for a job I may match well with, but those reviewing resumes concluded I was not a match. I have realized what I am willing to settle for salary wise and what I am looking for in a benefits package. Yes, benefits packages do matter. Some places have 5 days PTO while others have 21 days.
Friends, your 401K needs to be invested in. Your employer will match you, it is free money! If you have money saved, elect to opt in the most amount from your paycheck to get your employer to match that.
I have also realized my worth and what I bring to the table. I have a track record for elevating people, teams and organizations. I also know if I was offered a job in recruiting, it would not feel right. It does not fit into my life’s mission.
My last piece of advice - have healthy boundaries on your job search. Friends know I have been job searching for a few months. It doesn’t feel good to be asked daily by various people “Do you have a job” or “How’s your job search going”. Some friends have told me “beggars can’t be choosers” or “why are you being so picky”. Let's unpack this. Together. Why am I being so picky? Because I am overqualified for some jobs and others are not willing to pay my worth. Yes, I have accrued some debt because I am unemployed, but I need to be picky because I want to spend the next 5 years in this next move. It is not just a job. It is a career. It is a career I want to leave an impact. It is a career I will dedicate being above average and give everything I have to meet or exceed expectations, so yes, I am going to pick and choose what I want my career to be as it impacts all facets of my life. I want to grow as a professional and working woman in this next step. I refuse to sell myself short, so why start now?