Help Lisa help job seekers find new careers

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Lisa

For Lisa Melendez, “local” means much more than where she buys her groceries or sees a movie. It’s a way of life, a way of connecting with others, a way of giving back.

“I’m a community activist at heart, and a person who can find and identify opportunities where a lot of people don’t,” she says. “I love bringing people together. I love making conversations happen. I love convening.”Lisa

Lisa was born and raised in East Harlem, NY and has a wide range of experience working on community initiatives. She’s done everything from lobbying local government to change welfare laws to coordinating an international HIV/AIDS panel to matching prospective board members with nonprofits to working in administration at a hospital.

A mother of two, Lisa is now living in upstate NY as a stay-at-home mom. When she’s not taking her kids to extracurricular activities or attending school events, she spends her spare time developing a new organization geared towards matching early childcare providers with local families.

She’s ready to jump back into the workforce, this time with a different focus. Tech companies seeking to improve the quality of life are appealing to her, but she lacks the skillset required for most positions. Still, she’s hopeful and has been applying nonetheless.

“I’m not afraid of first times. Just because I’ve never done this before doesn’t mean I am not capable or shouldn’t do it,” she says.

The idea

Given her experience looking for jobs, and the experience of many in the U.S., Lisa would like to connect prospective job seekers looking to switch industries with the right resources to give them the best chance of success.

Starting with her home state, New York, her target audience is middle-aged, male and female displaced workers.

“We have no real choice here but to begin embracing the notion that your career can begin in one place and end up in another,” Lisa says. “I see it everywhere. People are reinventing themselves all the time.”

She envisions three components:

  1. On-line product/community that includes a search engine, services clearinghouse, emerging industry profiles, career paths, industry-specific skill profiles, and more.
  2. Live tour for candidates who want to meet an actual person and learn about a particular industry from an insider.  This would also be a chance to identify shadowing, returnship, and matching opportunities.
  3. Matching of non-traditional, prospective job seekers for shadowing of established employees in area of interest.

“In a time where so many of us feel as if we are submitting our resumes into the great abyss, we are having to become innovative in how we present ourselves to potential employers,” she says. “Many are asking the question, “How can I get employers to see I can do this job?”



Career paths can be long and winding, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. (Photo via allison.hare on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

This is the first time Lisa has shared her idea. Here are the challenges she currently faces:

  1. She doesn’t know where to start.
  2. It’s been hard for her to anticipate the resources – human, financial, and otherwise – she needs to move it forward.

How you can help

  • Besides VocationVacations, which Lisa finds pricey, does this idea exist somewhere else?
  • Has there been any thinking around this issue, and if so, what kind of progress has been made?
  • Who are the key players and organizations she should tap into?
  • Where can she find more information on career transitions?
  • What kinds of expertise would be most helpful in the technical development? Are there low-cost or pro-bono services?
  • For the live tour component, how can she best identify experts who’d be willing to share insider information?
  • Given job competitiveness, would folks even be interested in having somebody shadow them? Why or why not?
  • Regardless of which industry you work in, would people be interested in participating?
  • Would you be interested in talking about or helping out with this idea?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

Are you a practical dreamer with an idea that’s just starting to take shape? If you’d like to be part of this series, or know someone who would be a good fit, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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One tip for better communication between job seekers and hiring managers

Can we talk instead of bumping heads? (Photo credit: gin_able, Creative Commons/Flickr)

A few weeks ago, we released our 2012 nonprofit survey reports, culling the responses of over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations and over 3,000 active job seekers. Together, the reports help paint a picture of today’s nonprofit sector: who’s hiring and who’s looking, trends in funding and compensation practices, and what’s posing the biggest challenges to both organizations and job hunters right now, along with a lot else.

Most surveys yield some surprising results, and these were no exception. But a few statistics that received the most attention from readers were in the area of communication between organizations and job seekers regarding application submission.

Communication breakdown?

Only 14% of job seekers reported receiving either a personalized or automated acknowledgement after sending an application, but 63% of hiring managers said they send them. Seekers also said that hearing back from and general communication with employers is their number one frustration during the search process. In the same arena, 40% of hiring managers said they dislike candidates contacting them to check on their application status.

Job seekers take time applying for opportunities and want to know as much as possible about where they stand, but many understaffed organizations already strain to keep up with the array of tasks that need attention daily, in addition to hiring. In fact, 84% of staff filling human resources roles at organizations reported wearing at least one other hat at work, the majority of them also responsible for program management or support.

Communication solution

So what are applicants and hiring managers to do? Here’s one tip we love that could help bridge the gap: the autoresponder!

Here at Idealist, we use Google for our email needs, and their handy autoresponder, Canned Responses, can be found in the Labs tab in Settings. In their words, this feature allows you to “compose your reply once and save the message text with the ‘Canned Responses’ button. Later, you can open that same message and send it again and again.” You can also, “set a filter to grab one of your saved responses, create an automated reply, and hit the Send button for you.”

So whether hiring managers want to cut down the time it takes to manually send out “Thanks for your resume! We’ll get back to you soon” emails to every applicant, or set up an email address just for applications that will automatically shoot an acknowledgement message back to the sender, autoresponders are here to save everyone time and effort as well as keep potential candidates up-to-date on their status. Additionally, Constant Contact, GetResponse, and lots of other companies produce low-cost or free versions. Autoresponders have helped us streamline our HR practices and keep our applicants in the loop.

How else can anxious job seekers and busy hiring managers find more common ground? Readers, share your thoughts!

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