Strategic Advice for Job Seekers

If you are involved in the non-profit world, as staff, board or other volunteer, check out the folks at and their discussion group on LinkedIn. The LinkedIn group asks a “Question of the Week”, some of which are especially good and generate informative discussions. I participate regularly, and the following is my response to a set of recent questions: 

  • What advice would you offer to nonprofit job seekers? 
  • What has worked for you? 
  • What questions do you have for others about nonprofit job seeking? 

A couple of things I learned in my many years, which include a long stint as a career coach… These apply for any position from door stop to executive director, and to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike.

First, most people have heard to align their mission with your values. You cannot align the two unless you know the two. On the side of your own mission and values, can you REALLY articulate them? (I find very few people can) Be absolutely honest, what do you want most and why do you want it? How do you want people to think of you? How does this show up in your daily behavior, your goals, your datebook and checkbook? Have you done the heavy lifting to discover your own mission/purpose? I also teach people to develop a “Skills Language” that includes “I am…, I can…, and I know how to…” skills. Personal mission and values can make for powerful “I am…” skills.

On the organization side, the same applies. Many organizations have mission and values on the wall, but they don’t really mean anything or show up in tangible behaviors of the people of the organization. Look for tangible signs of integrity, which means wholeness – the talk and especially observable behavior that demonstrate values. Ask others, what is it like to work here?

Ask these questions in some tactful form, for example when you are interviewing for a job: Specifically, how does the position for which I am applying support the mission of the organization? (the closer the link, the more strategic the position, the better job security and fun you’ll have!) I’ve read your mission statement and I’m curious, in your own words, what are the top three goals of this organization? (Listen for certainty and articulation; watch their eyes and you’ll see if this is the first time they have thought about it in a while) What is really at stake with your Cause? (The key here is to remember that you’re not just trying to get hired – unless you are really just trying to get hired ; you are attempting to “hire” the right employer.)

Look and listen for the “Why” of organizations that interest you. Most will do a fairly good job of “What” they do; “How” they do it will be an ongoing experiment with varying degrees of controls in place (hint: is there a real strategy? Are there proven processes in place that allow for continual innovation?) 

But “Why” points toward the organizational Dream; What do the people of this organization believe in so much that, even though it may currently seem just beyond their reach, it brings Cause to their every thought and action?

About pdncoach

A Go-Giver business coach working with leaders whose success depends on the performance and productivity of others. I coach individual leaders and their teams... in small to mid-size businesses, ministries and non-profits... to accelerate their results and achieve dreams by getting past the difficult, strategic challenges of their current realities.
This entry was posted in #therightquestions, career advice, goodworksconnect, job search, Non-Profit jobs, questions. Bookmark the permalink.

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