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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Compensation: More than just a paycheck

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Have you subscribed to our monthly HR Connections newsletter? Visit idealisthr.org 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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Career Corner: Working for Oregon's Best Mid-Sized Nonprofit (Hint: It's More Than Just Foosball…)

Written by Steve Joiner. 

This year the Oregon Business Magazine launched their inaugural “100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon” and, after 6700 employees from over 200 nonprofits around the state filled out anonymous surveys, the results were in: our Portland office of Idealist is the best middle-sized nonprofit workplace in the state of Oregon. We’re thrilled and very proud of our “behind the scenes” staff that continually strives to make our office a place where we enjoy coming every day of the week (and the occasional weekend).

But, more importantly, the results of this survey offer tips and tools for organizations of any size, shape, or location. As Oregon Business Magazine’s Editor Robin Doussard puts it: “We wanted nonprofits to have the insight into their workforce that the corporate world has so readily come to value over the years.”

The article that highlights our Portland office paints a picture of a workplace that includes perks like casual dress, casual hours (get the work done and don’t punch a clock), pet-friendly rules, and a foosball table. Yet it is the focus of our team and the leadership of Russ Finkelstein (Idealist’s Associate Director and head of the Portland office) in particular that make our office something special. Russ “strives to make sure employees are doing work that’s meaningful to them, and constantly reminds the staff that if they weren’t doing this work, no one else would be doing it.”

So beyond the fact that our office is a great place to work, what are the bigger takeaways? As someone who talks and thinks about nonprofit careers for my job and hears about the range and diversity of options out there, I sincerely appreciate the atmosphere of our office. I also appreciate the organizational dedication to maintaining our benefits through these tough economic times. However, what I hear over and over again from job seekers is that while office culture, benefits, and salary are important, it is the opportunity to be engaged in work that is inspiring and meaningful that is key. As more and more employment and volunteerism data pours in, it is this flexibility, autonomy, ownership of personal responsibility, and trust that professionals of all generations seek.

Nonprofit professionals from around the state of Oregon have weighed in on what matters most to them in their workplace. These survey results provide a clear picture of the aspects of the workplace that will help recruit and retain passionate, talented professionals as well as what job seekers should ask about and look for in their next position. This “data”, along with articles on new funding strategies and more intentional collaborations provide timely, relevant resources for any organization looking to harness the full potential of today’s work and volunteer world.

[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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