Friday, May 6, 2011

Nonprofit Job Search Tips: Things to Avoid

Over the course of a nonprofit job search, it is normal to get into some bad habits, especially if the search has lasted a long time.  Maybe, in our frustration, we start to spend less time than we should scouring nonprofit job boards.  Or perhaps we don't put as much effort as we once did into resumes and cover letters.  We might start to wonder why we should put effort into something that isn't giving any positive results back.  While it is tempting to think about things this way, this is exactly the kind of attitude job seekers must strive to avoid, as it leads to bad job search habits.  So on this Friday before the weekend, let me go over some of the habits you should avoid on your job search:

  1. Not doing any additional work after finishing an application: A lot of times, job seekers think their work is done once they submit their resume and cover letter in a job application.  Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, the work has only begun.  As you are probably aware, competition for nonprofit jobs couldn't be higher these days.  As such, you have to do everything you can to separate yourself from other applicants.  You can do this by using sites like LinkedIn to see if you know any employees at the company to help get your resume to the top of the pile.
  2. Spending less time job hunting: There is no doubt that applying for jobs is not the most exciting task in the world.  It becomes even less fun when you seemingly are throwing your resume into the void.  It would be easy to convince yourself that you are expending too much energy on the job search, and that you need to spend less time doing it.  While it is true that you can spend too much time on it, you also need to make sure you are putting the right amount of effort in.  Realistically, you should spend about three to five hours a couple of times a week on job search related activities. 
  3. Not doing enough research on the jobs you apply to: Does a job description sound too good to be true?  Maybe it is.  That's why all nonprofit job seekers should do ample research on the organization they apply to.  This includes researching the salary and benefits they offer, the atmosphere of the workplace, and whether the goal of the nonprofit meshes with your beliefs.  Remember, in order to do your best work as an employee, you have to feel comfortable at your workplace.
  4. Not editing e-mails sent to employers: One of the best ways to make a bad impression on a potential employer is to send a sloppily written e-mail.  Trust me, if there is even one typo in your message, it is likely you won't even be considered for the job.  Even if you don't think there are spelling or grammar errors in your message, you should always proofread it before you click "send."  If possible, you should also have someone else read it over, as often times we can overlook errors in our own writing. 
  5. Giving into negative thinking: I hinted at this at the beginning of this post, so it's only fitting that I end with it as well.  It is so easy to get frustrated with a nonprofit job search, especially when things aren't going as planned.  And just telling yourself that everyone else is going through the same thing doesn't always make it easier.  So what can you do to avoid getting frustrated?  There isn't really one good answer, but I do have a couple of suggestions.  For me, I always found that listening to some of my favorite music helped make the search a little more bearable.  And though this might sound like a contradiction of what I said earlier, you should consider taking a short break if you are finding that the frustration is hindering your progress.  Take a quick walk outside and get some fresh air (if it's a nice day, of course), or do something that makes you feel happy.  Then, when you are refreshed, go back and go after those jobs with renewed energy.

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