Ask Ero: Answers for confused and baffled Idealists

Ero is Thoughtful Adjusted Cropped3In this series of blog posts, I’ll try to answer all your questions (regardless of how ridiculously unqualified I am to answer them.) Consider me sort of a tech-literate, bearded, Ann Landers, or a work-safe Dan Savage.

In the last installment of this series, I answered questions about editing for brevity, solving big problems, and listening to music. How were my answers? I hope you’ll tell me. Now, on with this installment’s question!

After recently losing a job, I’ve almost given up hope. I’m not getting call-backs, and it might be due to my age- I’m not fresh out of college anymore. When I do get calls, they’re for entry-level jobs. I’m also an artist, and appreciate a flexible schedule, so how do I know if I should be looking for freelance work or a full-time job? -Margo

This is such a great question that it deserves an entire post all by itself, so here goes!

First of all, why limit yourself to one kind of work or another? You may not want the commitment of a full-time job. But keep your eyes open for that anyhow, and apply for what sounds appealing. You can even go to an interview, get a job offer, then decide to turn it down.

But you won’t know what’s out there unless you’re looking for it. Your dream job might be just where you least expect it. It’s not unheard of, after all, to work part-time or contract gigs, and have a low-key small business on the side. Unorthodox work is pretty common for artists of all kinds, so I’d advise looking for everything at once. Your solution may be a combination!

Now, keeping your morale up is hard, especially after losing a job. It gets even more frustrating when you’re highly skilled and experienced, and the only call-backs that you do get are ridiculously low-paid. Low compensation can be a problem in the nonprofit sector (though compensation is a complex issue). But although you may not be seeing them now, well-compensated jobs exist. Keep up the search and don’t get discouraged.

As for age discrimination, this can be a serious problem, but usually there’s not much you can do about it unless you see it happen. When first applying for a job you can’t affect the behavior of people who read your resume– but you can adjust how you present yourself. Make sure your cover letter and resume really represent what you have to offer specifically for the job you’re applying to, instead of just showing years of experience.

Discrimination happens, but you may also be missing opportunities because you don’t seem like you really want a position. This is not at all to say that you should hide your age. But you want to be sure you’re presenting your strengths properly.

After all, what you really want is to find work that values you for what you are: skilled, experienced, and not at all entry-level. Plenty of other folks out there are in the same boat: it’s an aging workforce, and some will see you as a talented youngster who’ll liven up the workplace with your crazy youthful enthusiasm.

There’s also a truth that isn’t often expressed, which is that the jobs ecosystem is not a bag of rice, it’s a bag of extra-chunky granola.

Every single job is a different size and shape.  Some are startlingly well-paid, some poorly paid. Some need decades of experience and advanced degrees, some want someone with strange new ideas. Some want specific odd types of experience, or unique individual skills.

During the course of my work day I see a lot of job listings – has 10,470 right at this moment! – and almost all of them are surprising in one way or another. They vary a lot! 

You’re the obviously-just-right candidate for at least one of them. As a jobseeker your task is to find that opportunity, and then make sure to make your obvious-just-right-ness clear.

After all, you’re looking, not to succeed with all jobs…just ones that are right for you.The right work for you will come along if you keep looking, and keep putting yourself out there. (You can find lots of useful tips on our blog).

I believe in you. You can do it.

Have questions about anything I’ve said? Or about anything else (and I do mean anything)? Ask me.

Ask Ero anything (anything anything anything) at

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Link roundup: Are you making the most of your career journey?

Fall symbolizes wisdom and abundance; are you taking a similar approach to your career? (Photo credit: blmiers2, Creative Commons/Flickr)

On Saturday September 22nd, Autumn officially began here in the United States (so long, Summer!). Autumn symbolizes wisdom and fulfillment, making now a perfect time to explore how you can make the most of your career journey.

To help you get started, we’re sharing some interesting articles on new ways of thinking about your work. Next week, we’ll share some resources and opportunities to help you put your ideas into action.

Michele Martin, Career resolutions as a key to career thriving

Career resolutions are really the habits we create for ourselves that we do on a regular basis. How do we spend that first hour of work? What rituals have we created for ourselves daily, weekly, monthly?

Goals give us a sense of destination, while resolutions are the habits that can take us there. And even when our goals feel unclear, we can still keep our resolutions as a strategy for continuing to develop even if we feel stuck or lost.

Brazen Careerist, How to succeed as a multi-passion careerist

The problem with being multi-passionate isn’t the long list of interests, the bouncing between ideas or even wanting to “do it all.” The problem is when you don’t finish something. If you make a commitment to yourself and back down, you’re going to feel crappy about it.

Instead of trying to narrow your passions, just make sure you finish what you say you will. By completing whatever passion projects you start out on, you’ll get an extreme high that will continue to motivate you in pursuing your other interests.

Mark and Angel Hack Life, 11 ways successful people start their mornings

Put first things first. Successful people recognize that not all hours are created equal, and they strategically account for this when planning their day. For most of us, our minds operate at peak performance in the morning hours when we’re well rested. So obviously it would be foolish to use this time for a trivial task like reading emails. These peak performance hours should be 100% dedicated to working on the tasks that bring you closer to your goals.

Rosetta Thurman, New leadership for a new nonprofit sector, a manifesto

“What kinds of nonprofit leaders do we need now in order to effect social change? Real social change?

My sense is that there are four kinds of nonprofit leaders we need now:

True Believers
Ruthless Innovators
Ambassadors of Diversity
Courageous Advocates

If you’ve been following my work or reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably guessed the punchline already. I believe that we already have these kinds of leaders in our midst, but that we just need to do more to support and engage them more fully in the work.”

Blog of Impossible Things, Get disciplined, not motivated

Everywhere you go, you see people trying to get motivated to do something, to make a change. They’ll go read something, watch something or attend a conference and come away “motivated.” But that only leaves them “motivated”, it doesn’t move them to action.

“I’m motivated to do this”. “I’m motivated to do that”. Stop being motivated and just do it already! You don’t need more motivation – you need discipline.

See discipline is a whole different animal.

What have you read recently that has helped you think about your work?

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Three ways to stay optimistic while searching for a job

Last week, we blogged about how self-knowledge is a key component of a successful job search. The post sparked an interesting discussion and was a good reminder of the complexities of job seeking that go beyond resumes and networking etiquette.

Looking for a job can be many things: exciting, tiring, inspiring, and deflating. No matter the ratio of ingredients, it’s often like being on your own personal roller coaster. Just last night, I overheard an elated new job-lander talking on her phone. She was shrieking into the receiver in a way that turned out to be joyful, but easily could have been taken as terrified. “I got the job, I got the job!” she cried, and as I passed she was launching into the sea of details. Talk about a melodrama! Of course, this is the happy emotional state we all hope our job searches are headed for, but what about the meantime?


Remember: sometimes it's the little things that keep us happy. (Photo Credit: Peyri, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Feeling discouraged is a top complaint of job seekers, and how could it not be? If you’re doing your homework, you’re setting yourself up for regular dissection and rejection from a range of audiences. But you don’t have to stay mired in the blues. Consider these stay-on-top tips:

Create a routine. The same advice that helps anyone facing a tough transition can work wonders for job seekers. If you’re unemployed, don’t sleep until noon one day and get up at 7:00 the next; try not to cram all your LinkedIn tasks into a four-hour period and then lose touch for two weeks. Setting up even a basic routine while you search for a job (perhaps a daily cocktail of one part surfing the want ads, one part networking, and one part researching your field—with a sprinkling of fresh fruit breaks and walks around the block) can really help keep you grounded and feeling like you’re doing “something,” even if that thing isn’t always getting a job offer.

Explore alternatives. This one is taken directly from the brain of Dick Bolles, author of the deservedly ubiquitous What Color Is Your Parachute?. No matter how grim your employment options may seem in the dark of night, you always have options; sometimes it’s only a matter of illuminating them. For example, if you’ve been pursuing work in a certain field, try identifying two other fields you’d enjoy working in. If you spend most of your time visiting job seeker websites, look through a newspaper for a change. Just as leveraging the power of biodiversity serves evolution in nature, so leveraging the power of options serves the discouraged job seeker. Bolles writes extensively about this conviction in Parachute, but a mini version can be found in this edition of the Job Hunters Bible newsletter.

Don’t forget to live. All work and no play will not only make you dull, it will also make you less productive. All manner of studies and experiments show that our brains generally thrive on variety—not frenzy, but not repetition, either. So be strategic: pick enjoyable break activities that have natural starting and ending points, so you don’t wind up lost in Facebook or on an interminable phone call with your grandmother when all you wanted was a brief respite from salary surveys. Try balancing two hours of hardcore job listings searches with 20 minutes of cereal eating, funny episodic blog browsing, podcast listening, or even a nap (just set the alarm!). Then go back to work feeling refreshed.

When all else fails, I like recalling the great proverb “this too shall pass.” Because even if you’re feeling down-and-out now, one day you’ll be shrieking joyfully to a friend on the phone. That’s life.

Your turn, job seekers: tell us how you keep from feeling discouraged!

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Idea File: Start a job search support group

Neighbors band together to support one another through periods of unemployment.


Would a job search support group help you? (Photo Credit: Katerha, Creative Commons/Flickr)

The idea

Feeling down and out after searching (and searching, and searching…) for a job? Why not get together with neighbors or friends for constructive dialogue, fresh ideas, and renewed energy?

In my small hometown in Maryland, a group is doing just that. Karla*, a consultant in search of a full-time job, began meeting twice a month with her husband and two neighbors, all Boomers who had been laid off within the last few years. They call themselves the Dream Academy. In Karla’s words, “We are only four people yet have a surprisingly different set of needs,” so their conversations ranged from compassionate pep talks for the most depressed member of the group to more specific negotiation advice for another member who was fairly far along in an interview process.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File

This idea is cheap, easy to replicate, and needed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the length of time the jobless spend searching for work before finding a job increased from 5.2 to 10.4 weeks between 2007 and 2010, edging down to 10.0 in 2011.” Ten weeks is about how long our former coworker Diana spent searching for her new job in Boston, but we know that not everyone is so lucky. Diana received tons of emails and comments from readers, some of whom have been out of work for years. I wonder what would happen if those readers began checking in regularly, encouraging one another and sharing resources.

“I think any time a community of even a small number forms around an issue or a cause or a concern, everybody in that community gains something,” says Karla. “Conversations we have with ourselves only keep us stuck; conversations stay alive when you share them with other people. The conversation around ‘how can I find a job in this economy when I’m over 50?’ is not a very empowering one, especially when you only have it with yourself and there’s a lot of reinforcement for it in the media. It really helps to surround yourself with people who believe in you and believe you have something outstanding to offer. Which, of course, we all do.”

How you can replicate it

  • Find people to meet with. For the Dream Academy, four members was a good size. “It enabled us to have a very substantive conversation about each member’s needs while still only taking about an hour – which was what each of us felt we could spare. Sticking close to an hour makes it feel like an opportunity rather than an imposition,” says Karla.
  • Keep it low-maintenance. What time and day is best? Will folks need to figure out childcare? Searching for a job is taxing enough; make it as easy as possible for your fellow job seekers to participate.
  • Consider group dynamics. Are you going to “require” that people attend meetings, or will the group be flexible? Will you set one scheduled meeting time per week or month, and if not, should one person take the lead on scheduling? Will you take turns being the time keeper to make sure everyone has a chance to talk about what’s going well and what’s getting them down?
  • Find a space. Is there a room at a public library? Will people be more comfortable speaking freely inside someone’s home? If you sit at a coffee shop, will everyone feel pressured to spend money on drinks?
  • Stay open-minded and celebrate successes. Though the Maryland group named themselves the Dream Academy, one member, Joe, came to the group feeling anything but dreamy. “He was very down about his prospects,” says Karla. “He’d lost his job as a teacher with the school system and was about to go for what he was viewing as a dead-end ‘informational’ interview with a principal at a nearby high school. We all urged him to go into this meeting with a much more open mind about what might happen.” The next day, Joe called to say he’d gotten a long-term job as a substitute teacher, with the possibility of a promotion to full-time. This was wonderful news for Joe and it also boosted morale among the whole group.

I look forward to hearing how things progress for the members of the Dream Academy and for the group as a whole. Once they’re all employed, maybe they’ll continue to meet to offer one another informal coaching and mentorship (like the group Trista Harris describes in this post). Or maybe they’ll stop meeting but give each other an extra wink when they run into each other in the neighborhood and ask, “How’s work these days?”

What do you think?

We’d love to hear your experiences.  Have you tried something like this? Do you have additional tips to offer?

*Names have been changed. Special thanks to the “Dream Academy” of Prince George’s County, MD, for their help with this post.

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


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


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 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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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.


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:

  •’s Career Center – We offer a rundown on how to prepare, what questions to ask, and even what to pack for your big day.
  • – 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.
  • – 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.
  • – 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.


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

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.


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


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 (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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Searching the site? Some updates for you.


No need for a magnifying glass. (Photo: Mads Boedker, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Yesterday we released a new set of features to make it easier to find the people, organizations, and opportunities that matter most to you. Play around and let us know what you think!

Click on any of the listing types (Jobs, Volunteer Opportunities, etc.) in the header on, or start a search based on type, keyword, or location.

To better locate the opportunities relevant to where you are or want to be, we’ve refined our radius search to including listings from your choice of 5, 10, 25, 50, or 100 miles from any location. You can also search by region. Try a search for jobs in Eastern Europe or Western Africa, for example.

When searching for jobs:

  • Select Job Function, and narrow your search results by degree and experience requirements and whether you’re looking for something full or part-time.

When searching for volunteer opportunities:

  • Easily find opportunities based on how much time you want to give and when you’re free to give it.
  • Filter down to opportunities for groups and families, and if you’re looking to go abroad, tune-in on which organizations provide support to international volunteers.

To locate people:

  • Tap into our database of hundreds of thousands of individuals that are searching for friends, collaborators, clients, and volunteer opportunities.

We’ve also made our Info Centers more accessible. Now when you search for different topics, your results might include links to our Career Center or Grad School Resource Center. We figure if you’re searching for a job, you might also be interested in ways to score your next interview, for example.

Questions for us? Leave ’em below.

Ideas for more improvements to the site? Add your suggestions to our GetSatisfaction page.

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