Posts by Diana Hsu


Diana's Big Move: I got a job offer! Now what?

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You got an offer! Party time. Almost. (Photo by Robyn B. via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Disclaimer: this is not my cat. If I had party hats at home, I would post a picture of my own cat wearing a party hat. Why? I got a job offer!

I was in the middle of writing a blog post about how my original timeline was naively optimistic. Back in March, I hoped I’d move from applications to a job offer in three months or less (patience is not my strong suit). As of a week ago, my few promising opportunities seemed to be fizzling and it began to look like I would need to start my search over from scratch.

Then, one magical day, I received a reference request. And a few days later, I got the job offer.

Things to consider before you accept

As relieved as I was, I took some time to think carefully about the offer before giving a response. If you find yourself in a similar situation (congrats!), here are some factors that you may want to consider:

  • Salary offered (specifically if, like me, you’re new to a city – how does the cost of living add up now?)
  • Whether the benefits package suits your life situation
  • Whether the position offered is in line with your chosen career path
  • The organizational culture; after your interviews, can you really see yourself working successfully with your potential colleagues?
  • Day to day details such as the work itself, the commute, the schedule, etc.

Only you can decide whether the offer truly fits your needs and your circumstances – and whether you want to join the organization at all. If you feel that any part of your offer warrants discussion, speak up! I’m not a negotiation expert, so if you need tips, take a look at the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-time Job Seekers, specifically the chapter entitled Closing the deal: Understanding benefits and the art of negotiation.

If you end up accepting (like I eventually did), congratulations!

Still searching?

I know a lot of you out there are still searching Idealist and other job boards daily and trying hard to find work. Thank you to everyone who’s followed along with this series – your cheers, constructive criticism, and honest advice were invaluable.

I received 52 comments and emails in response to this series. Of those, 17 of you mentioned the emotional toll of the job search (“frustrating,” “burnt out,” “discouraging,” etc.), and 24 of you shared words of encouragement (with me or with fellow commenters). So if you’re struggling through the job search, I hope you’ll consider that as evidence that you’re not alone! Find people to talk to; find a group to volunteer with; heck, maybe start writing a blog. I wish you the best of luck.

Signing off for now

As for me, I’m on to my next professional adventure. My first day is in two weeks! I’d like to offer a heartfelt thank you to the team at Idealist for letting my share my journey here. Here’s the whole series:

The job search begins

The applications continue…

The first job interview

Learn from my job search mistakes

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Diana’s Big Move: Learn from my job search mistakes

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Don't wait as long as I did to send your post-interview thank you notes. (Photo by Adam Selwood via Flickr/Creative Commons)

For those of you who’ve been following along, you know that I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my move to Boston. Now my move is just six days away. I’ve been spending my time packing up my apartment in New York, saying goodbye to friends, and of course, waiting to see if I get a job offer.

I finished up a few second round interviews since I last checked in and now I’m trying to stay patient. (I’m mostly failing. Props to Kim, my cubicle-mate at Idealist, who’s valiantly trying to keep me from wearing out the refresh button on my inbox.) I thought I could redirect some of my anxiety into a roundup of things I wish I’d done differently. Here’s hoping you can learn from my mistakes…

The search

Early on, my mindset was “I need to know about every single job that gets posted anywhere!” Seeing a huge list of opportunities every day felt reassuring, as if every job on that list was proof that the economy is on the mend and the world is full of possibilities. Obviously, not all of these jobs fit my interests or skill set. Consider this:

  • Current number of jobs in the Boston metropolitan area on Idealist.org: 695.
  • Number of jobs remaining after I refined the search to match my needs: 86.
  • Number of minutes wasted in manually sifting through irrelevant jobs: too many.

I quickly became overwhelmed and started deleting my alerts unread. Let our website do the work for you: target your Email Alerts to your needs. You may receive our notifications less frequently, but when you do, you’ll be certain that they are worth your time to read. If you need help setting up your search, just reach out.

Networking

Be smart about your online networking. Once I decided to move, I dove into my search so fast that I might have easily forgotten the basics. Before you start sending in applications or asking people for informational interviews, Google yourself and see what comes up. Try your best to keep your professional online presence separate from your personal one. If you tweet off-color jokes to your friends, you might not want to set your Twitter account to sync automatically with your LinkedIn profile.

As for meeting with people face to face: remember, we have tons of free networking resources, as do Ask a Manager, Echoing Green, and others. And check out this “Networking for Introverts” article we pinned on Pinterest today.

Applications

In college, my career center drilled into our heads that a resume* should never be longer than a single page, so I used tiny font sizes and messed with page margins to make mine fit. Guess what? One of my interviewers apparently had different printer settings and walked in with my resume on two pages anyway. So your time may be better spent re-reading your application for typos and making sure your resume is elegant, or going out for a breath of fresh air.

*Note: CVs are different; submit what the employer asks for.

Post-interview etiquette

We’ve hired a few new folks at Idealist recently and I’ve noticed that the hiring managers are surprised if they don’t receive a thoughtful thank-you email within a day or so. If you’re going to send a handwritten note, send it soon. I waited a little bit too long; by the time I was writing mine, I couldn’t recall as much detail as I would have liked. If I could do it all again, I’d jot down notes for myself immediately after each interview and write my thank you notes more promptly.

On that note (no pun intended), don’t leave your contact hanging. One hiring manager asked me to complete a written exercise after my interview; I got to work on it right away but didn’t think I needed to reply until after I’d finished the requested tasks. A few days later, I got a concerned follow-up from my interviewer, asking if I was still interested in the position. Oops. Should’ve sent an “I’d be delighted to submit this additional writing sample and will have it to you by [date]” email immediately.

Waiting

One day, an employer I’d been in touch with said they’d make a decision “next week.” A week later, here I am, checking my email what feels like a hundred times a day. (I’m on email check #8 since starting this paragraph, no joke.)

Kim has suggested that I give myself a time—say, Thursday at 2pm—when I’m allowed to start to worry that someone else has received an offer. Until then, I’m supposed to log out of my email, assume the hiring managers are busy, and relax. This strategy has clearly not worked for me, but I wanted to pass along the advice anyway in case one of you out there will benefit.

Did I miss anything?

As always, please reach out with your own job search stories, advice on how to pass the time, or just to say hi. Leave a comment or email me at diana [at] idealist [dot] org.

Previous posts in this series:

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Diana's Big Move: The first job interview

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Now we're moving. (Photo: Norlando Pobre, Flickr/Creative Commons)

I just finished my first interview!

I got the interview request a few days ago, and after weeks of stress-induced quesadilla dinners and panic, this was a huge reassurance. Someone somewhere thinks I’m doing something right! (If you need to catch up, here’s how I started my search and what I’ve been doing since.)

After finishing my celebratory happy dance, I got down to work. Here’s how I prepared and how I think you can make it through your interview with minimal stress.

Review.

Remind yourself why you’re a great fit for the position.

  • Back to basics. Re-familiarize yourself with the job description, the application materials you sent, and the organization’s website (specifically the role you’re hoping for and how it ties to their mission).

Rehearse.

Now that you have those talking points, learn them. Make flashcards, invent a color scheme, or cover yourself in sticky notes. Whatever it takes, know the key points that you want to cover.

Interview day

Get comfortable and be confident.

  • Go to your happy place. If you have a phone interview like I did, a happy place is both mental and physical. I squirreled away into an empty back conference room with a notebook, pen, bottle of water, the cover letter and resume I submitted, and a print-out of the job description. If your cell phone is as temperamental as mine, try to get to a land line. Get comfortable – if you are more assertive in a suit, wear one. Personally? I rid myself of the jitters by interviewing in flip-flops and blasting Eminem a few minutes before I knew the phone would ring. Oh, and did you remember to go tinkle? Do it.
  • If you have an in-person interview, look professional and approachable. If you’re not sure of the dress code, aim to be over- rather than under-dressed (but this does not necessarily mean wearing a suit). And bring a copy of your resume and a way to take notes, even if you don’t end up needing either.
  • Pump yourself up, do a mirror check, and review your notes, but do it all before you get there. Arrive a little early, walk through the doors on time, and be nice to the person who greets you. First impressions are crucial. When you step foot in the building, you’re on.

Relax!

The hiring committee is looking for a good fit for the position and their office culture; you are looking for a position where you’ll contribute and thrive. All of this preparation is so that everyone can find out if it’s a good match. Take a deep breath and be yourself.

Extra reading:

This is obviously a well worn topic. Here are some resources that I consulted while preparing for my interview:

  • Idealist.org’s Career Center – We offer a rundown on how to prepare, what questions to ask, and even what to pack for your big day.
  • AskaManager.org – Alison Green’s wildly helpful site, written from the point of view of a hiring manager. You’ll want to look specifically at her interview and phone interview posts.
  • Theemployable.com – Tips on how to answer questions, what your body language is saying to the hiring manager, and mistakes to avoid. Thanks to Catherine R. of our LinkedIn group for the tip.
  • Glassdoor.com – Browse interview reviews from previous candidates to get an inside view of a company’s interview process.

Happy dances all around

We’re getting there! Congrats on any progress you’ve made this week. As always, feel free to share your experiences, horror stories, and funny anecdotes with me in the comments or at diana [at] idealist [dot] org. I’m cheering you on!

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Diana’s Big Move: The job applications continue…

Hi, Diana again. I checked in a little while ago about the beginning of my job search. I thought it might be time for an update and a few more insider tidbits.

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What to do when you're waiting...and waiting... (Photo: Paul Downey, Flickr/Creative Commons)

I have sadly little to report: a few false starts, and one tiny spark of a lead that I hope to turn into a real possibility. I’m trying my best not to let my anxiety get to the best of me, and trying not to check my email fifteen times an hour (…I wish I were kidding). But, never fear. Let’s be proactive:

Keep the applications going and be patient.

It’s easy to feel burnt out when you spend hours on applications and you don’t receive positive feedback. Find your inner Dory, and just keep swimming. Don’t focus on the number of applications you’ve sent out, or the rejection letters (or lack thereof) that you’ve received. All you need is for one employer to think you’re a good fit.

While we’re on the subject of feedback: as tempting as it may be, in most cases you should refrain from following up on your resume. You’ve submitted your application, so the organization knows you’re interested; your cover letter and resume indicate your enthusiasm and skill set. One exception to this is if you have a substantial addition to make to your file. If you’ve applied to a job where Swahili is a requirement, and you’ve since become fluent, by all means, let the hiring committee know. (This tidbit comes to you from our very own HR team; for more insight, check out IdealistHR.org.)

Learn from your (mis)steps.

If you’re not sure about the content, tone, or general approach of your application materials, have a friend or colleague look everything over. As much as it may feel like one, your job search is not a cumulative exercise. The organization you contact today doesn’t know about the spelling error you missed on the last resume you sent out, or about the “joke” that didn’t go over so well in a past interview. Take your past stumbles and learn from them.

Take notes.

Every week, we receive a few calls from panicked job seekers who’ve finally landed an interview, only to realize they have no idea which position they’re being considered for. Don’t let yourself get ambushed – and please feel free to use this little chart I’ve made for myself:

Network. No, really, do it.

I rolled my eyes as much as the next person when it came to networking. But that lead that I mentioned? It came from a connection. I’m sending out applications and letters and resumes, too, of course. But you never know where your dream job will come from. We have so many great ideas on networking already, so I’ll leave you to peruse our resources. Suffice it to say, whether it be via social media, in person, or by carrier pigeon, networking: do it.

React:

This is a struggle for me, too. Some of you have already reached out with your personal stories and experiences. Please keep these coming! If there are specific topics that you’d like Idealist to cover or if you have a never-fail tip, let us know. Drop me a line here in the comments or at diana [at] idealist [dot] org.

Liked this post? Here are others you might enjoy:

Five New Year’s resolutions for job seekers

Career Corner: Taking my own advice

Getting your career search on track

Diana’s Big Move: The job search  begins

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Diana's Big Move: The job search begins

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After lots of trips from New York to Boston, I'm looking forward to getting settled. Photo: Rob Pongsajapan, Flickr/Creative Commons

A new series exploring one Idealist’s search for her next career move.

Hi, I’m Diana. We met recently in the post about Idealist’s Community Support Team. My coworker Kim and I answer all of your calls and emails about the site.

A confession: For the last few days, during every conversation I’ve had with a job seeker, I’ve given them a mental high five, and sent off an extra little prayer to the universe that things go well for them. Why? Because I’m in the club now, too.

I love Idealist and I’ve loved working with people like you, but life is taking me away from New York and I’m officially looking for a new gig. As I began tackling applications, a few things dawned on me – insight that I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t, y’know, work at Idealist.

Here are some of the discoveries I’ve made so far:

1) If you’re currently employed, consider telling your manager you’re looking. Maybe.

Idealist is an open, supportive place to work, with open, supportive leadership. My managers know I’m searching, which is helpful because I don’t have to scramble for references and I won’t have to fake a stomachache to go out of town for an interview. If you’re lucky to be in a workplace like mine, you might want to disclose your decision to move on relatively early in your process.

But clearly this is not an option for everyone. Make sure you weigh the benefits against the potential risks. In her post Choosing an end date when resigning, Alison Green of Ask a Manager writes:

“Your best bet is to pay attention to how your employer has handled other employees who resign. Are people shown the door immediately? Pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? Allowed to work their full notice period? In any case, don’t assume that you control the selection of your last day once you give notice…”

And keep in mind that life isn’t all carefree after you come clean. While I had a hunch Idealist wouldn’t fire me just for announcing my intentions to move on, spreading the news has been nerve-wracking for other reasons. What if Idealist hires my replacement, and I still haven’t found anything? What if my move falls apart at the last minute? Before you give notice, be sure you really, really want to make this career move. Idealist’s tools for career self-assessment can help.

2) Research, research, research.

  • Even if you’re not moving, find out what organizations or companies are most active in your region and see if you can find your professional niche in that area. Is your city a haven for museums, or hospitals, or biotech? You may end up playing a similar role in a wildly different organization.
  • What are your salary requirements? If you are moving, find out how much should you expect to make. Don’t get turned down for demanding a Manhattan salary in a city with a drastically lower cost of living. I found CNN Money’s Cost of Living calculator to be especially handy. You can also see a breakdown of salaries by company, location, and title at Glassdoor.com (you may have to join to see the information you need – they give you a month for free, and offer you unlimited membership if you contribute anonymously to their database).

3) Sweat the little stuff. Seriously.

After working here I will never, ever copy and paste a form cover letter because I know it always shows. Tailor your cover letter and your resume specifically for the job to which you’re applying. Find out as much as you can about the organization or company you’d like to work for, and tell them honestly why you want to work for them and why you’re qualified for the position.

Stay tuned.

I’ll check in every now and then to update you my progress, and I’d love to hear from you, too. I’m in a unique situation since I can write so publicly about this. If you prefer not to comment publicly here, please feel free to write to me at diana [at] idealist [dot] org to share your struggles, your victories, a story of that kick-butt interview answer you came up with. We’re in this together.

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Have medicine, clothes, food, or tech to donate? We can help.

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Have too much canned corn at home? Consider donating to a food drive. (Photo by Bernard Pollack, Flickr/Creative Commons)

If you’re anything like me, you have a stash of clothing that you swear you’re planning to wear any day now, but that you haven’t touched in years. Or your organization has a pile of old laptops in a back closet. Or you have some medicine you’d really rather not throw away but don’t need. So many of you have contacted us (including a staffer’s beloved grandma!) asking where you can donate these goods that we decided it was time to put together a resource.

Take a look at our Community Support Team’s Resources for making a noncash donation page and visit Charity Navigator’s site for more great tips.

Here are a few highlights that we’ve compiled:

  • Donate items that are new, unused, or nearly new; a charity probably can’t make use of old junk any better than you can (…and may have to use valuable resources to do it).
  • If you are looking to donate medicine, it must be unused, unopened, and unexpired. Laws vary state to state, so make sure you check here or ask your pharmacist for more information.
  • Consider selling your items and donating the money you receive to charity. Try Craigslist, Ebay, or get offline and organize a garage sale!
  • Look for a local charity to maximize your impact. This cuts down on transportation costs for you or for the charity. Make sure you get in touch with them to insure your donation will be welcome and useful!

Check out our full resource here. Of course, you can also use Idealist to search for organizations in your area, and get in touch with them directly about your items to donate.

If you work with or know of an organization that we should add to our list, please contact us here!

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Want to volunteer? Our Volunteer Resource Center can help

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Volunteers work to reinforce sandbag levees in North Dakota. (Photo by US Army Corps of Engineers, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Did you know there are more than 13,000 volunteer opportunities listed on Idealist.org right now? Whether you can spare a few hours or an entire year,  we have an opportunity for you.

If this is your first time volunteering (or you just need a refresher), here are some highlights from our Volunteer Resource Center:

Who can volunteer? Just about everyone. Check out our resource center for more specific information on volunteering for youth, students, families, retired folks, those of you currently in the workforce, and those of you with special needs.

What can I do as a volunteer? Again, just about anything. While you can certainly go to a shelter once a week to dish up food, volunteering can take many other shapes. Broad categories covered in our resource center include serving on a board, participating in direct service or disaster relief, creating your own project, volunteering online, offering your skills pro bono, and volunteering in a different community or even a different country.

How do I start?

  • With so many options available to you, you’ll first need to identify your interests and your goals, and the time commitment that you’re willing and able to make.
  • Search Idealist to find potential partner organizations that you’d like to work with. Do some preliminary research to make sure they are a good fit. Some example questions are below; click here for a more complete list. If you’re considering an international opportunity, make sure you check out our International Volunteerism Resource Center as well.
    • What is the organization’s mission?
    • What would your responsibilities as a volunteer be?
    • Is there a time commitment for volunteers?
    • Make sure to ask questions specific to your situation: building accessibility, physical ability required for the position, transportation options, accommodations for a restricted diet or certain religious/cultural practices, etc.
  • Make a decision and follow through with your commitment!

If you need some convincing to get started, take a look at some benefits (to you!) of volunteering, and the importance of volunteerism to your community, and yes, to the economy (…to the tune of $162 billion U.S.).

Find a volunteer opportunity that suits your interests and needs here.

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Today's picks: Want to work in community development?

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Photo via Flickr user Brooke Anderson

Every day hundreds of new listings are added to Idealist, but sometimes, even I’m surprised by the number and variety of ways to get involved with an issue you care about. I ran a search for “community development” and came up with more than 37,000 results. Here’s a small sampling of what I found.

Today’s area of focus: community development

Job: Senior Project Manager – Real Estate
Organization: North Shore Community Development Corporation
Location: Salem, MA
In their own words: “Our work is focused on combating the challenges and struggles that low-income residents face by advocating for and developing affordable housing and fostering community empowerment. We are committed to neighborhood revitalization, advocacy, effective programming, and green housing development.”

Volunteer Opportunity: Piano Teacher
Organization: Shih Yu-Lang Central YMCA
Location: San Francisco, CA
In their own words: “We build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities.”

Internship: National Conference Coordination Intern
Organization: Coalition for Smarter Growth
Location: Washington, D.C.
In their own words: “Our mission is to ensure that transportation and development decisions are made with genuine community participation and allow the region to accommodate growth while revitalizing communities, providing more housing and travel choices, and conserving our natural and historic areas.”

Event: Drops of Good Service Week
Organization: Rebuilding Together Greater Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles, CA
In their own words: “Join us as we help restore the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. This community project will be a huge event where RTGLA will be doing a special makeover for WLCAC’s Howard Bingham Center; which takes place Monday, September 12th, through Wednesday, September 14th.”

And for you internationally minded folks, here are Community Development jobs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania.

Search thousands of other listings filed under Community Development, or post an opportunity of your own.

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Need volunteers or interns? Find 'em free through Idealist!

A lot of you post jobs here, but did you know you can also post volunteer opportunity and internship listings for free on Idealist.org?

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"Volunteer appreciation party" by Flickr user stevendepolo (Creative Commons)

Some quick facts:

  • Volunteer opportunities and internships can remain on the site for up to six months, so you won’t need to re-post your organization’s frequent or long-standing needs.
  • Users can search for your volunteer opportunity by duration and type of commitment (for those of us who only want to volunteer for, say, 3 hours on weekends for four months), and whether your opportunity is suitable for groups or families.
  • Even paid internships are free to post!

Want to go for it? If you’ve posted on Idealist before, I know this looks familiar:

To get to this lovely screen, you’ll have to log into your Idealist.org account, and click on Post a Listing. Select the type of listing you’d like to create, and which organization you’d like to post on behalf of. If you don’t have access to your organization’s page, just search for it and click on the Become an Administrator button. If you haven’t added your organization yet, what are you waiting for? Click the yellow Add Your Org button now.

(Note: I’ve written some how-to’s to help polish up your organization’s Idealist.org profile. If you haven’t been following along, you can catch up here.)

Ready to get started? Click on the yellow Post a Listing button and let us know if you need any help.

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Want access to your organization's page on Idealist?

In my how-to’s over the past few weeks, I’ve covered how to make your organization’s Idealist profile more search-friendly (using keywords), better formatted (using Creole and properly fitted logos), and more informative (uploading content from your other feeds).

Today’s post is all about who’s allowed to make changes to an org page. Current administrators, this post is a good one to share with anyone who oversees hiring, volunteer management, or social media.

Why might I want access to my organization’s page?

You already know you can post jobs there, but did you know that you can also post volunteer opportunities, internships, events, programs and resources? And all for free? The more information you share about your organization’s programs, and the more people see lots of ways to get involved, the more inviting your org page will be for members of the Idealist community who’d like to connect and collaborate with you!

I don’t have access to post stuff. How do I get it?

I’m assuming that your organization has an active page on Idealist; that you have an individual login; and that you would like access to your org page. If you don’t have a personal login with us yet, go ahead and click on the yellow “Sign Up” button on the homepage. I’ll wait.

Once all of that is set up, search for your organization in the top search box. On your org page, click on the blue “Become an administrator” button on the right side of the page.

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Depending on your organization’s preference settings, your request may need to be approved by a current administrator. We’ll ask to confirm that this should be sent. (Has your page been abandoned? Click on the link to “let Idealist staff know.” We’ll get the message and approve your request internally.)

I’m in! Now what?

Once your request has been approved, you’ll be able to access your organization’s page and post listings on its behalf! The administrators of your organization’s page will be able to set your privileges and remove old administrators, if necessary…but more on that next time.

What if I’m the administrator of my org page, and I want anyone with a matching email domain to be allowed the same access?

You can set this preference by clicking on “Org preferences” under Admin Tools on your organization’s page.

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