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5 Questions When Looking for a Nonprofit Job

Ask yourself what value you have for a nonprofit employer


Contrary to popular belief, the nonprofit sector is no less competitive than the corporate world.

It's tough to land a job in either sector.

To prepare yourself and make yourself more attractive to a nonprofit employer, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. What Makes Me So Special — on Paper?
 No amount of pizzazz packed into a resume and cover letter can replace the value of presenting yourself in person. People who spend time firing off applications into cyberspace, convinced that their decades of financial wizardry and high-profile account management will have nonprofit hirers scrambling for the phone, are setting themselves up for a lot of disappointment. This realization may lead you to ask...
  2. Why Can’t Anyone See My Value?
 In today’s competitive job market, you are going up against professionals who are, on paper, as impressive — if not more impressive — than you. Plus, overworked nonprofit hirers (the ones looking at stacks of resumes), are probably not taking the time to figure out how your management of a multimillion-dollar sales account translates into the ability to run a volunteer program. As a result, you may be wondering...
  3. Am I Wasting My Job-Searching Time?
 The number of applicants for open nonprofit positions is frighteningly high, and hiring professionals don’t have the time to pour over every application that they receive. A lot of organizations use the “Interview,” “Maybe interview” and “Don’t bother” sorting method. Guess where a lot of the first wave of 60 to 70 resumes for one position end up? So, now you may be starting to wonder...
  4. Am I Making Myself Stand Out in a Bad Way?
 Using the wrong lingo (“I’d love to work for your company” is a classic mistake — instead, say “organization”), having a “you’d be lucky to have me” attitude or thinking that your tangible professional deliveries (“increased sales 38 percent over three years”) should take the place of your demonstrated passion (“served as a Big Brother for 14 years”) are all ways to make a hiring professional at a nonprofit think, “This person doesn’t get it.”  The good news is that the answer to the last question goes a long way toward righting your job search.
  5. How Intentional Am I Being in Creating Relationships? If the bad news is a highly competitive, nonprofit job market, then the good news is that there are a myriad of inroads to creating meaningful relationships and networks with your target organizations. Why start with what is being offered right now? A lot of professionals have this disconnect between volunteering (“I’ve done it for years and not one has offered me a job!”) and professional development. Why not go out and create opportunities (true, most of them will be unpaid) to raise your visibility while also working on honing your transferable skills? Why not sit on a program-planning committee, offer to work on a grant, help plan an event, run a capital campaign or serve on a board?

This article was originally published by on March 12, 2009.
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