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.
YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Take ownership of your brand by first defining your career narrative, which is how you communicate your work history. Your narrative should flow in a cohesive manner, and who you are - your brand - must resonate throughout. You can do this by highlighting accomplishments versus tasks, aligning yourself with the mission of the organization, anticipating objections and addressing them, and inspiring prospective employers to see you in the future of their organization. Many elements go into your personal brand, but we will focus on your resume, cover letter, and social media presence.
Your resume must stand on its own! So leave as little as possible to chance; be crystal clear so that you do not leave information up for (mis)interpretation by the reader. List out positions in reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience at the top. Fill in the gaps and list the sabbatical or the time you spent raising children. Explain short job stints - did the organization lose funding? did your hiring manager leave? was it a short term contract? were you a trailing partner? were you recruited away to your dream job? It's OK to leave off the role you held for two months because you realized it was a mistake, but at some point, you should bring it up in conversation with the recruiter or the hiring manager - these things often have a way of coming to light. Create different versions of your resume that directly map your experiences to the position you're applying for and the mission - this cannot be understated: your connection to the mission must shine bright. Use specific phrases from the posted job description in your resume to outsmart a bot. Make it easy to read, please do not use 10 pt. font and if that means you take two pages to tell your story then so be it. You don't have to use the built-in Microsoft Word templates, but scope out sites like Etsy or Canva for an inexpensive but cool template. You do not need to provide your street address, include a photo, or list your hobbies. Ask a fresh pair of eyes to review it for typos - your eyes will glaze over reading it for the hundredth time, so phone a friend. Finally, outline your accomplishments with action verbs versus listing your tasks like this:
Task: Researched, wrote and coordinated all grant applications.
Accomplishment: Oversaw the full grant application life cycle, successfully soliciting more than $2.2 million in philanthropic dollars over a two-year period.
Let's start with the don'ts. Don't re-purpose the same cover letter for every job you apply for (pro tip: if you do, please double check that the font matches throughout after you change the name of the hiring manager and organization). Don't miss the opportunity to connect your passion and skills to the position. Don't condense your resume into the cover letter. Instead, think of the cover as a chance to express how your lived experiences and skills will elevate the organization's mission. Keep in mind that most hiring managers view the cover letter as a writing sample so tell a story and don't be afraid to get a little personal about your aspirations and interests.
Make no mistake about it, the recruiter just looked you up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and ran a general Google search. Let's focus on LinkedIn as it is our primary professional networking platform. Merge multiple LinkedIn accounts and think twice about your profile photo - what does it say about you? is it contributing or detracting from your brand. If you took a selfie in your car, re-shoot. If you cropped out the person standing next to you but it's clear someone is there, re-shoot. Be mindful of your activity as your followers and network can see what statuses you like, who you follow, and what you publish. Show off your accomplishments including licenses and certificates, publications, awards, and blog posts. Moving on from LinkedIn, you may consider making other social media accounts private. Google your name using the incognito/privacy mode on your browser and see what comes up; doing this will generate a different set of results than what you're used to seeing. Scan old job boards for any old resumes that may be lurking and update accounts and profiles regularly.
Remote Job Sites and Local Exploration
In our new normal, many are interested in finding remote work. We uncovered a few job sites that are listed below. It's also worth typing "nonprofit remote jobs" into a search engine and seeing what comes up. For local nonprofit work, you can also leverage chambers of commerce, nonprofit associations and career centers of local universities and colleges.