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 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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Simplify your job search: Four tools to find jobs faster

This is the third in a three-part series for job seekers. You might also enjoy Can social media help you land your dream job? and Applying for jobs? Four free tools to keep the process simple.


Job applicants prepare for mock interviews. (Photo: DC Central Kitchen, Flickr/Creative Commons)

The headlines about jobs are very doom-and-gloom, but this summer the number of jobs posted on Idealist has actually increased (knock on wood, there are currently more than 7,000 jobs listed on our site). If you’ve found yourself saying “there just aren’t enough hours in the day to stay on top of everything,” here are some tools to help you save time and keep your search organized and on track.

RSS feeds: For those who aren’t familiar, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You can set up a reader to serve as a one-stop website that automatically fills up with the personalized content you’re looking for.

All you need is a free RSS reader (like Google Reader) and a job site that supports RSS feeds (like ours!). To get started, run your favorite Idealist search, click the orange RSS button, and paste the URL into your reader. You’ll no longer have to constantly visit unique sites and run unique searches. All of your content will be in one place that’s easy to scan.

Google Alerts: Let’s say you’ve done some self-reflection and right now you’re motivated mainly by the desire to support a specific organization’s mission, by filling a specific type of role. (The “five lens framework” exercise can help you figure this out.)

If you know you want to be a Development Associate at the Alzheimer’s Association or a Program Officer at Room to Read, for example, create a Google Alert using those keywords. Then you’ll get an email whenever there is content posted on the web that matches. Even if you’re less sure about the exact job title you’re after, you can easily tailor alerts that pull in new jobs based on your area of interest or expertise.

Idealist Email Alerts: Similar idea, but specifically built into Idealist to help you stay on top of your searches there. They’re really easy to set up.

Social media: If you know you want to work at The Nature Conservancy, for example, be sure to like their page on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn, and connect to them on Idealist. Organizations will often reach out to their networks first before publicizing positions on major job boards.

Your turn! What other tools do you use to simplify your job search?

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Career Corner: Your Personal Mission Statement

By Steven Joiner.

Job seekers looking to convey their unique skills and talents need to first look within. Your ability to concisely and convincingly convey your interests, abilities, and experience is a vital first step to career success. By honing your personal mission statement, you ensure that you are always ready to express yourself to a new contact, networking connection, potential employer, or anyone else who may be able to help you in your search for meaningful, fulfilling work. The whole idea behind networking and building connections with people is to create a group of advocates who know about your interests and abilities and can therefore keep you on their radar for times when opportunities that they hear about could possible fit with what you are seeking.

Self-knowledge and the ability to express yourself through a personal mission statement isn’t about “selling yourself,” rather it is about “knowing yourself.” Transitions Coach and Career Counselor Cathy Wasserman says, “While selling yourself can come across as pushy and insincere, knowing yourself inside and out—your core strengths, experience, passions, and goals—greatly increases the likelihood that you will stand out and land a fulfilling job where you can contribute, be supported, and continue to develop and grow professionally. Furthermore, lack of self-knowledge makes it more likely that you will end up treading professional water or embarking upon a career path that does not maximize your abilities.”

A job seeker should never, ever say, “I don’t really know what I want to do” nor should they say, “There are a gazillion things I would love to do.” Neither of these comments help others help you in your search and they don’t help you stand out. After you do a little bit of self-reflection, it is pretty clear to see what you want to do. And, while it may be true that you have a lot of different interests (almost no one, after all, is only good at or interested in one thing), identifying your two or three key interests allows you to talk about relevant interests with relevant people. For example, I am interested in and generally good at teaching and writing. If I meet a fellow writer, I talk first about my writing. If I meet a teacher, I talk teaching. My other interests and experiences may come out in the course of the conversation but I always try to “hook” a new contact by starting with what I see as the area of greatest common interest and then going from there.

To get started, check out “Self and career assessment,” Chapter Three of The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers (you can choose from the first-time job seekers guide or the sector-switcher guide) and learn how to clarify your mission, values, priorities, and greatest skills. Then check out Chapter Four “Networking” to learn ways to turn this self-knowledge into your elevator pitch. By taking steps to identify your greatest skills, understanding what kind of jobs and organizations work best for you, and practicing how to authentically communicate this information to others through your elevator pitch, you will appear confident, self-aware, motivated, and directed. Talk about a great set of qualities to display to anyone helping you find that dream job!

[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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