Managing the job search, especially when it is unexpected, can lead to feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness, but there are ways to reclaim your power. As veteran talent acquisition specialists, we’ve spent our careers poring through resumes and interviewing candidates for some of the country's leading social sector organizations. In this series, we will share some of the things we’ve learned along the way that will help you take control of your situation.
Somewhere along the line, networking became a discomfort. It conjures up images of aggressive salespeople who schmooze and live life at the surface. Networking done right is nothing like that. Networking is not a one-time transaction. It is one conversation out of many intentionally designed to build a relationship. So, shift your lens and your attitude towards networking will shift too. Think of it simply as one person interacting with another. Humanize it. And prepare like hell. Prepare what you will say, how you will say it, and then say it out loud until it becomes second nature.
When you prepare what you will say, it gives you the confidence you need to lead the conversation. It also helps remove the burden from the person you're speaking with and keeps the conversation in your control. Try to avoid going too broad (i.e. “I’ll do any kind of marketing job anywhere.”) because it will dilute your brand. Instead, showcase 1-2 of your greatest skills to share with the listener, the ones that are best represented by your track record, and share those experiences.
If you're looking to change functions or switch into nonprofit, it's best to describe a progression of responsibility in your career, point to demonstrated success in a field that gave you translatable skills, and show how each skill that you have directly relates to the specific responsibilities of the position that you’re currently interested in. Connect every single dot on behalf of the listener. Bring out your clear, and ideally personal, connection to the organization’s mission. If the role you’re interested in means a step back or two in title, clearly explain why you’re okay with that. Take on volunteer roles that show exposure to and hands-on experience in the function or sector in which you are interested.
You have 30 seconds to become memorable and interesting – and crystal clear about what you do. Include personal passions and side projects where they make sense. Don’t undersell or oversell your skill. Practice out loud, in front of a friend, and even try making a few test calls. More info on crafting your pitch can be found at Skillcrush. Once you deliver your elevator pitch, be prepared for some questions to come back to you: Are you willing to relocate, and where? What other missions interest you? What is your ideal salary range? How quickly are you thinking of making a move?
Don’t be concerned about “warm calls vs. cold calls;” it’s just a phone call – the process and outcome for both is going to be the same. Just make it a conversation. And be flexible and mindful of the fact that the person you’re calling may not have the time to chat in that moment; ask them if you can try again later. Keep track of every call that you make - you don't to be caught off-guard if a recruiter calls you in reference to a specific position. We recommend using a spreadsheet to track: job boards, positions, and the date you applied, the list of people you’re networking with, the date you left a message or had a conversation, and if you did speak, what you talked about; and note any follow-up thank you’s to folks you did speak with and dates they were sent (This will prompt you to connect with them on LinkedIn a few days later!).
Once you have that initial conversation, build on it. Find ways to surprise and delight your new connection - did you remember a small detail that the person mentioned that you can use in a follow-up at a later point? As you continue engaging with that person, you will learn more about what is important to them. And as you speak with others, you will uncover a valuable bit of information to share back with that person, helping you to continue building the relationship through meaningful, personalized communication.
Have you ever wondered how recruiters decide who to reach out to in their networking? It all starts with compiling strategic list of people. You will need to do the same for your networking prospects. Make a list of organizations based on these questions: where do YOU want to work? which mission do you want to support? where can you make an impact? From there, think about who you know at those organizations. As you research people on LinkedIn, is there anyone who is one or two degrees away in your network? Can former colleagues facilitate an introduction? Conduct a search on LinkedIn for people at the organization with commonalities - they volunteered at the same organization as you do, they attended the same university, played high school football just like you - they will be inclined to help. Find recruiters who are running searches for the types of positions that you want. Join LinkedIn groups to source prospects. Look up people who you consider benchmarks for your career, or your mentors, and join the groups that they belong to. Speak with board members in the sector you’re interested in. When you get them on the phone, simply ask: Can you read my resume? What are you seeing in the market? What’s keeping you up at night? Do you know someone who has 10 minutes to speak with me about X, Y, or Z? And build the relationship from there. Remember, each encounter must be meaningful and personalized.