Lessons Learned from an Extended Job Search
At the beginning of 2005, I joined a large nonprofit organization in New York City where the people seemed especially nice and the position well suited to my interests and skills. Less than a year later, a management shakeup resulted in the departure of two high level executives who were instrumental in my hiring. This also resulted in a shift in the culture of the organization, making it a very different and often unpleasant place to work. So I quickly realized that I needed to resume an active job search.
So from early 2006 until mid 2009, I was in a job search – sort of. It went in fits and starts, as I tried to find a way to adjust to the changes at work. I focused on the parts of the job which were still pleasant – providing support to a nationwide network of chapters, all who were very appreciative of my helping them learn and utilize our online platform. But my time ran out in July 2009 when department reorganization resulted in my position being eliminated. This wasn’t a particularly convenient time, as I was moving to a new home shortly after my job ended. (Is there any good time to lose a job?)
Since my expertise overlaps several areas: technology, communications and fundraising, it wasn’t until February 2010 that I received a seemingly perfect offer – to join a consulting firm that services nonprofit organizations in exactly these areas. But I found that the move from being a nonprofit staff member to a consultant was a difficult transition. So in July 2010, my employment ended and I had to again resume my job search.
Unlike many of my colleagues who have been in transition, I was fortunate to land interviews regularly. But while I got to the final stages at many organizations, I did not get an offer, even when I had four or five interviews! Was this due to the bad economy and the volume of applicants for every job opening? I seemed to be interviewing well, but it was very frustrating to go through so many rounds and not receive an offer.
In December 2010, after two onsite interviews with multiple staff, I recently received and accepted an offer to join Jewish Funds for Justice as their Director of Online Strategy, and began work in January 2011. Six months later, I found myself needing to move once again, and was fortunate to quickly land a role as Project Manager, Technology at the Center for Court Innovation, where I am still happily employed as of the end of 2011.
While I am very grateful for having landed successfully after a few disappointments, as I’ve learned from Rod Colon and the ETP Network, no job is ‘permanent’ and networking never stops. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from multiple job searches:
- It’s critical to customize both the resume and the cover letter for every position you apply for. Of course you never change the facts, only the accomplishments that you emphasize.
- When networking, help others first. If you get a reputation as someone who is helpful to others, other people will go out of their way to assist you.
- Ask to be mentored. I’ve stayed in touch with the two executives who originally hired me in early 2005, and they’ve been constantly supportive by providing encouragement and serving as references.
- Stay away from negativity. There are many who focus on the unemployment numbers, and ‘how bad things are.’ Better to associate with those who can keep a positive outlook.
- When a job doesn’t work out that seemed almost sure to result in a job offer, ask why you weren’t selected. You may not get a direct answer, but sometimes you can get clues that will help in subsequent interviews.
- Make sure you always have multiple prospects in the pipeline. Often I made the mistake of focusing on one opportunity which eventually fizzled, leaving me back at the starting gate.
- Don’t take it personally. There are many reasons why an organization may not extend a job offer, many which have nothing to do with you (e.g. job put on hold, changing requirements).
- Don’t spend all your time in front of a computer screen. Make sure you are scheduling meetings with your network, attending events and staying visible.
- Consider a blog to showcase your expertise. I’ve posted weekly at nonprofitbridge.com for over three years now, and have found it helpful in keeping me on brand and in the public eye.
- Use a system like jibberjobber.com to keep track of the companies you apply to, people you speak to and to schedule days/times when you will get back in touch.
- Consider multiple consulting projects or part/time work. While I was lucky enough to find full time employment, this is not the way many people are now earning a living, and this trend will only accelerate in coming years.