Book Review: Job Searches a Headache? This Book is Medicine.

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Let’s say you’re thinking about your work—maybe changing jobs, maybe finding one—and you’d like what you do for a living to be interesting, pay enough, and, at the end of the day, make a positive difference in the world. Sounds like you might be looking for some sort of a job in public service — working for federal, state or local government, a nonprofit organization, or a for-profit firm that’s involved in some way.

The problem? According to Heather Krasna’s new book Jobs that Matter, there are some 22 million jobs in government (with more than 30,000 federal jobs vacant at any time), 8.7 million nonprofit jobs, and countless tens of thousands of jobs with contractors who work alongside government agencies and nonprofits doing parallel work. Just thinking about where to start can give you a headache.

When you look a little closer, you discover that each agency, each local government, each potential employer, in a matter of fact, expects something different from applicants, provides information about vacancies (if at all) in different ways, and approaches the hiring process differently as well. “Headache” doesn’t sum up half of it.

Careful, comprehensive and informative, Jobs that Matter doesn’t make things any simpler. But it does offer practical help with the tough questions: Where to start? How to focus the search? How to deal with styles of recruiting from most to least formal?

Krasna starts and ends her book with general advice to a job seeker with the goal of finding a job that matters. She begins with how to define goals, match goals with qualifications, and grasp the complexities of this range of possibilities. She wraps up with how to prepare for a job search, apply, focus and negotiate when an offer is on the table. And the chapters in the center of the book explore seven broad ways a career that make a difference, in health care, the arts, education, etc., with examples and advice that span all levels of government and all sorts of nonprofits from large to tiny.

The book offers exercises to help with the planning, examples of good resumes and cover letters, interesting profiles of real people doing real jobs across the country, and useful explanations of jargon (Who knew that a “status candidate” is a federal employee looking to change jobs? Or that some vacancies can only be filled with people who already have jobs with the government?). It has lots of useful references as well, including Idealist’s own Career Guides.

Jobs that Matter will help any seeker Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service (as the subtitle promises).

You can order Jobs that Matter from; a royalty will be paid that helps support this site.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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