Posts by Idealist

Are you thinking about grad school? Idealist can help!

With a new school year just around the corner (so long, summer!), now is the perfect time to start thinking about if graduate school is the right next step for you.  Idealist is here to help by hosting a series of Grad Fairs throughout the fall.

Talk to admissions representatives from graduate schools from around the country. (Photo Credit: Staff Photo/Julia Smith)

Starting in September, we’ll visit 17 cities across the United States so you can meet with representatives from hundreds of colleges and universities.  At a Grad Fair, you’ll learn about the admissions process, financial aid, and degree programs in nonprofit management, public health, public policy, social work, education, international affairs, and many other fields.  This is the perfect opportunity to explore how graduate school might help you strengthen your skill set, grow your network, and advance your career in social change.

Grad Fairs are free and open to the public.

To RSVP for a Grad Fair near you, click a city below:

Thursday, September 13 – New York
Wednesday, September 19 – Boston
Thursday, September 20 – Providence
Thursday, September 27 – Baltimore
Friday, September 28 – Washington, DC
Monday, October 1 – Philadelphia
Monday, October 3 – Toronto
Monday, October 8 – Denver
Tuesday, October 9 – Minneapolis
Thursday, October 11 – Chicago
Thursday, October 18 – Los Angeles
Friday, October 19 – San Francisco
Tuesday, October 23 – Seattle
Wednesday, October 24 – Portland
Monday, October 29 – Houston
Tuesday, October 30 – New Orleans
Thursday, November 1 – Miami

Have questions about the Grad Fairs? Visit our FAQ page for Graduate School Seekers or leave a comment below! And be sure to check out our tips for Graduate School Seekers to ensure you get the most out of our fairs.

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We're hiring! Apply to be our Outreach Manager

[We are no longer accepting applications for this position. Thank you for your interest!]

We're a happy bunch. Join us! (2012 staff retreat)

If you’re a person who loves engaging with people while ALSO obsessing about data, we would love to hear from you!

We’re looking for someone who is friendly, energetic, curious, data-driven, and highly imaginative to help us grow our community of nonprofit job posters. Your past experience includes producing strong results by building relationships, and understanding what it takes to maintain them.

Our growth so far has been mainly by word of mouth, which is wonderful, but we are now seeking to expand our base of job posters in new and creative ways. This new role will help ensure that every organization who can benefit from Idealist’s job posting service, knows about it.

Does this sound like the position for you? Apply today! Applications are due July 12, 2012.

Introducing our new blog editor, Allison Jones!

Hi, everyone. I’m Julia Smith and I’ve been lucky to edit this blog over the past few years, working with our team to shed light on everything from idea-sharing potlucks to New Year’s resolutions for job seekers to tips for making the most of any conference you attend. Now it’s time for me to hand over the reins, and I’m thrilled to welcome Allison Jones,  a longtime member of our community and one of the newest members of our staff. Read on to meet the communications champ who will be bringing you all kinds of blog goodness from now on!


Welcome Allison, our new blog editor!

Q. When did you first know you wanted to have a career with social impact? Is there a moment in your life you can pinpoint?

A. In high school I lived in a poor part of Brooklyn but attended school in a wealthy part of Brooklyn. The differences were shocking and upsetting; who knew the impact a zip code could have on someone’s opportunities? I loved my time in school yet always thought, “Why can’t my brothers and sisters at home have this too?” And so began my commitment to education equality.

Q. Almost all of your jobs have been at nonprofits, right? What have you found most challenging and most rewarding about working in the nonprofit sector?

A. Yep (aside from an after-school gig I had in high school where I worked in the home office of a retired investment banker!). I have been a nonprofiteer for much of my career. I arrived at the sector by cause: I have always been passionate about education equality and this passion somewhat naturally led me to the nonprofit sector. I stayed in the sector because of community: nothing beats having a network of nonprofit geeks and folks audacious enough to think they can change the world.

I am also excited by the changes in the sector. There is so much movement and conversation around what change looks like, what role nonprofits play in facilitating that change, and the potential of cross-sector work to bring that change to life.

Q. Do you remember when you first set up your old blog, Entry Level Living? What prompted that and how did it feel to click “publish” on your first post?

A. I started Entry Level Living because I wanted to write about my experiences as a nonprofit newbie.  It was exciting but I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. I had been blogging on LiveJournal and Yahoo!360 (service was shut down a few years ago – am I dating myself?) and the communities I built there were mainly of classmates and other casual/personal bloggers. I assumed my current blog would be the same thing; to be honest I was (and still am!) surprised by its growth since I started in 2007.

Q. Your blog has morphed over the years and is no longer quite so “entry level.” Can you share a little about how and when you decided to rebrand?

A. When Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris were writing their book How to be a Nonprofit Rockstar they wanted to include my blog and a post I had written. When they checked in to confirm how my blog and name should be credited, it dawned on me that while I was sharing advice on starting a career, I wanted my blog to reflect my professional growth; I wasn’t entry level anymore and had a growing network of peers which lead to a variety of experiences in what it means to make a difference. I didn’t want a huge departure from my original approach but I did want to tighten up my writing and vision, hence my tagline “Helping Millennials put their passions into practice.” Although simple, it acts as a launching pad when producing content. Some of the most popular posts since then have covered the role of college in your career, social entrepreneurship, and nitty gritty job searching tips.

Q. In this new role at Idealist you’re going to be eating and breathing a lot of online networking. Can you share one of your social media “lightbulb moments”?

A. I have had many lightbulb moments, most of them offline, in particular working with parents and students in schools. My work in education has taught me the importance of the phrase “meet people where they are.” Though the phrase is often used to encourage people to adopt social media to connect with new staff, donors, allies, and organizations, it is really reminding us to put people first and to communicate with them on their terms, online and offline.

Q. What made you decide to apply for this job? What are you most excited about now that orientation is underway?

A. [Idealist’s Executive Director] Ami once called me an “accidental techie”: I kind of fell into social media and technology through my love of blogging and the excitement I feel from connecting with people and learning about the world around me. But there is something amazing about being able to focus intently on how social media and tech are being used to make the world a better place and being able to throw myself into that conversation. And I just love Seriously – the service it provides, the message it sends, and its plan for world domination really appeal to me. Plus, I truly believe that writing and editing are art forms. You can make magic happen with words.

See why we feel lucky to have Allison on board? Leave a comment below to welcome her! She’ll also be the human behind our Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts, so feel free to introduce yourself.

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Considering grad school? Explore your options at an Idealist Grad Fair


A friendly recruiter chats up a prospective student at an Idealist Grad Fair. (Photo: Jung Fitzpatrick)

School may be out (or almost out) for the summer, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your radar. We’re kicking off the summer with two Idealist Grad Fairs and you’re invited! As always, the fairs are free, open to the public, and geared toward people who want to make a difference through their careers.

Learn more and RSVP:

Why attend our summer fairs?

Come beat the heat in air conditioned spaces – ones that are slightly more intimate than the fairs we host in New York and DC in September, which tend to draw huge crowds. You’ll have a chance to talk one-on-one with admissions folks from about 60 different programs, and mingle with people who are looking to further their education, achieve their career goals, and make a lasting impact on the world.

Bonus: You’ll be a step ahead of your peers by attending a summer fair. That’s three months before the fall Idealist Grad Fair season begins, and gives you lots of time to prepare applications for 2013! The early bird gets the worm, right?

Can’t make it to New York or DC?

Don’t fret if you can’t make it to either of the summer fairs. We have 17 more planned for the fall 2012 Idealist Grad Fair season, from Boston to Denver to Miami. Check out the full lineup and please spread the word to your friends in those cities who may be considering grad school.

Hope to see many of you at the fairs!

Thanks to Kevin Kennedy, our Events and Communications Intern, for this post – and for all of your hard work supporting the Idealist Grad Fairs.

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Graduating? Five tips to manage your student loans

Our thanks to Heather Jarvis for this post. Heather is a former capital defense attorney and long-time public service advocate who provides free tools and information for student loan borrowers and the people who love them.

Congratulations to the Class of 2012! It’s time to get a grip on those student loans you’ve been pushing to the back of your mind. Update your contact information with your lender, read every piece of mail you get about your loans so that you can figure out a plan that works for you, and check out my five top suggestions.


It's a lot to think about, but you can do it! (Photo: Scot Campbell, Flickr/Creative Commons)

1. Pull together a list of your loans and see what you’ve got.

Your options will depend on what kind of loans you have so the first step is getting a clear idea of what you owe. Use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to learn your balance, your loan “servicer”, and your “repayment status”. Private student loans won’t be listed on NSLDS, but you should be able to find them on your credit report.

2. Figure out when your first payment will be due.

Federal Stafford loans have a six month grace period before your first payment is due. The grace period for federal Perkins loans is nine months. The grace periods for federal PLUS loans and private student loans vary and will be listed on your paperwork or you can contact your lender for that information. Know when your first payment is due.

3. Decide whether to consolidate your student loans.

A consolidation loan combines multiple loans into one. You can consolidate your federal student loans through the Direct Loan program, but NEVER consolidate federal loans into a private student loan. You’ll lose the flexible repayment options and borrower benefits like loan forgiveness programs.

Consolidation typically makes sense when:

  • You want to earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness but some of your federal loans are FFEL loans (only Federal Direct Loans are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness). Find out if you have FFEL loans using the National Student Loan Data System.
  • You have variable rate Stafford loans (from 2006 or earlier). Interest rates adjust on July 1, 2012.

4. Determine which repayment plan is best for you.

Federal loan payments will automatically be based on a standard 10-year repayment plan unless you choose a different option. If payments under a standard 10-year repayment term are not affordable for you, find out about your other options.

Income-Based Repayment caps your monthly payments at a reasonable percentage of your income each year, and forgives any debt remaining after 25 years of affordable payments, or after just 10 years of these payments for borrowers who work in public service. Beware of relying on forbearance to postpone your student loan payments. Interest continues to accrue on student loans during forbearance, and many borrowers should consider Income-Based Repayment instead.

Private loans are a different story. Read all the paperwork carefully and ask your lender about your repayment options. They vary between private loans.

5. Learn more about how to handle your student loans.

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Compensation: More than just a paycheck


Have you subscribed to our monthly HR Connections newsletter? Visit to sign up.

In our most recent HR Connections newsletter, our HR and Operations Manager Kara Montermoso writes:

Many of us are drawn to work in the nonprofit sector by the missions of our organizations, but our satisfaction with our work and the ways it impacts the rest of our lives are key factors in keeping us motivated and engaged. And one aspect that can contribute to our sense of satisfaction is our total compensation.

Anyone working in nonprofit human resources—or preparing to negotiate a salary and benefits package—might want to check out the article, where Kara breaks down six general components, from salary and benefits to organizational culture.

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Got a new job? Eight tips for a successful start

January is typically the month when we see the highest number of jobs posted to, and this year is no exception. If you’re lucky enough to snag one of those gigs, here are some things to keep in mind as you begin. Thanks to Michelle Moran of YNPN-NYC for this guest post.


Good luck in your new role! (Photo: cogdogblog, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Once you have landed a new job it may seem like the hard part is over, but sometimes your first few weeks at work can be very challenging. Follow these tips to get off on the right foot and avoid making common mistakes.

1. Remember: you were hired for a reason. You beat out other qualified candidates for this job. That means the hiring manager believes you are the best person for the position. Have confidence that you will do a great job and can make important decisions on your own.

2. Learn from others. Pay attention to the ways that your successful colleagues and senior management approach their work, and leverage that understanding to be better at your job. Take the time to observe activities around the organization that may or may not be a part of your direct responsibilities. For example, if you are in fundraising, learn as much as you can about the program side of your organization.

3. Strike a balance between respecting what’s been done and making changes. Unless you are one of the first employees at an organization, there are certain norms that have been established for better or for worse. Don’t begin a new job thinking you are going to change things immediately. Instead, take time to understand why things are the way they are and how you can participate in your organization’s culture.

4. Meet one on one with everyone you will work with. From the intern to the top executive, never assume that you won’t interact with someone or that their advice will not be helpful. Everybody’s work (and opinion of you) matters, especially in a small office. If you can meet with them individually, ask what brought them to the organization, how they approach their role, and how you can best work together. Make sure to write a quick thank you note to everyone you meet.

5. Ask questions. Sometimes people can be so comfortable with a job or work environment that they forget to tell you important things that you need to know as a new employee. Take advantage of your newbie status to ask lots of questions.

6. Stay away from office politics. The last thing you want is to get involved in any drama. If people try to persuade you one way or another, simply state that you are here to do your job and don’t know anyone well enough to make judgments about them. Avoid the office drama queen (or king) as much as possible.

7. If you struggle in your new position, give it some time. You never know how things can change, and how responsibilities that seem difficult now may eventually be what you like most about your job.

8. Be yourself. Authenticity is key to not only winning over your coworkers, but also to doing a really great job in your position, and increasing your chances of a promotion. Ask: are you doing what you love? If your job isn’t what you expected, it might be worth a conversation with your manager.

What other tips would you add?

This is a slightly edited version of a post that originally appeared on the YNPN-NYC blog. The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of New York City supports the professional development of the next generation of nonprofit leaders by providing opportunities for skill-building, information sharing, and networking. Visit YNPN-NYC online at and connect with them on Twitter @ynpnnyc, on Facebook at, and on LinkedIn at


Prepping for behavioral interview questions

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at


You've got this. (Photo: Steven Depolo, Flickr/Creative Commons)

In a recent post on our nonprofit HR blog, we encourage hiring managers to ask behavioral questions:

Behavioral interviewing enables you to deeply evaluate candidates’ past work experiences, their knowledge, and their behaviors in order to accurately predict how they will perform in your organization. This type of system … focuses on their behaviors and results in various situations. It’s more about how they’ve used their knowledge – which often gives you a better understanding of how they will react and apply what they know in your environment. [Read more….]

But as a job seeker, how do you prepare to answer behavioral questions?

For many job candidates, thinking about specific past experiences can be challenging under high pressure situations. Below is a method to get ready for the interview. Download the full exercise here (PDF).

  • Looking at the job description, identify about 5-10 qualities, skills, and experiences the prospective employer wants.
  • Circle the qualities, skills, or experiences on your list that you possess.
  • For each of these, think of one or two anecdotes that illustrate your expression of the quality, your use of the skill, or your experience.
  • Write up a summary of each anecdote and practice telling each one orally for the interview.
  • Prepare to name the competency or skill, give an example of a time when you used the skill, and identify ways the skill applies to the job you want.

By the way, the “practice” part doesn’t just mean reciting your anecdote once or twice. You want it to sound natural, have an economical use of words, and be as captivating as possible while also clearly conveying your point. Practicing these anecdotes is akin to practicing an elevator pitch during networking situations. See the section on elevator pitches in Chapter Four of The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-time Job Seekers.

And how do you remember these anecdotes?

That’s easy! Type up your list of skills, and give yourself a few key words to jog your memory about the experience you plan to share.

Turn the tables at your interview

Finally, remember that any interview is and should be a two-way street. Pose behavioral questions to your hiring team to understand the work environment, culture, and leadership styles of the people you’d be working with, if hired. Here are our tips for presenting yourself in person, including when to ask the most important questions (hint: don’t wait ’til the second interview).

Good luck!

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Another job opening in our NYC office

[UPDATE, Dec. 2, 2011: Thanks for your interest! We are no longer reviewing applications for this position.]

Idealist is hiring an Accounting/Office Manager to be based in our sunny midtown Manhattan office. Want to help our audits, and our office, run smoothly? Or do you know someone else who might?

Click here to read the details. And if you know someone in New York who should apply, please pass this on!

IdealistHR: Behavioral interviews; office gift exchanges

This month’s IdealistHR newsletter is hot off the presses! November’s issue features an article about behavioral interviews (Does your hiring process need an overhaul?) and another about alternatives to the “potentially stomach-knotting office gift exchange” (‘Tis the season…).


"Oh look! A barking hot dog steamer!" Don't let this happen at your office. (Photo: Jonathan Lidbeck, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Peruse the IdealistHR archives or sign up for monthly emails by and for nonprofit human resources professionals at

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