The holidays have passed and resolutions have been made: Now is a perfect time to capitalize on the fresh-start momentum all around you and get the jump on finding a great new job this year. Here’s a five-step plan job seekers of all stripes can use.
1. Know what you want
Take the time to accurately assess exactly who you are and what it is that you want in your career. Knowing yourself and what you’d like to accomplish is the foundation of a successful job search and, ultimately, a fulfilling career. And since your career path can be a long journey of discovery, committing time early on to figuring out the direction you’re moving in, and why, can really help to sustain your efforts along the way.
- To start, try the career tracks exercise to get a better sense of the kind of work you’d like to do.
- Here are a few questions to explore if you’re trying to figure out your passion.
2. Know what’s out there
Once you have an idea of what you want, start getting a sense of all the organizations doing the work that interests you—not just the ones that are currently hiring. While you can research organizations in many ways, here are some suggestions for making the process most effective:
- Conduct informational interviews.
- Use the organization search on Idealist to explore 100,000 organizations worldwide and the range of opportunities they offer.
- Remember there’s more to social good than 501(c)(3)s: learn about social-impact careers in the other sectors.
3. Explore ways to become a stronger candidate
There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, but while you’re searching for a job, you’ll do well to work on strengthening your candidacy. While you may not know exactly which skill, qualification, or experience will get you that job offer, it’s a safe bet to try a diverse range of efforts:
- Brush up on your “nonprofit speak.”
- Check out the Idealist Volunteer Center and the International Volunteerism Resource Center to learn how volunteering can expand your skillset and your career horizons.
- If you’re an undergrad, check out these ways to set yourself up for success while you’re still in college.
- If you’re thinking about grad school, see the Idealist Grad School Resource Center to learn about earning higher degrees and certifications geared toward the public good.
4. Learn how to present yourself on paper, in person, and online
The more time you spend recreating your cover letter and resume for each position you apply for, the sooner you’ll snag job interviews and, eventually, a job offer. Research the positions you’re applying for and the organizations hiring for them: really examine who they are, what they’re asking for, and what you’ve got to offer them. Then tailor your cover letter, resume, and interview talking points to best translate your experiences for the hiring team. And craft an online presence that allows you to shine.
- On paper:
- The sooner you can establish that you are a serious candidate on paper, the more time hiring managers will spend on your application. An original, persuasive cover letter reflects your understanding of what the employer wants and how you are uniquely able to fill those needs.
- While it’s helpful to follow a structure, you should write a new cover letter and tweak your resume specifically for each organization and position that you’re applying for. Don’t go generic!
- Neither yourcoverletternoryour resume is your autobiography. When a hiring manager reads your application, they simply want to know the answer to three questions:
- Can you do the job?
- Will you do the job?
- Will you fit in?
- In person:
- As the candidate, your task is to prepare anecdotes about specific times you’ve used the skills the employer needs. Try this format: name the skill, identify a specific time you used it, and explain how the skill will be useful in the new job.
- Pay attention to the signals your body language sends to the hiring team. It’s okay to show a little nervousness (it means you care!), but try to relax and be yourself so they can glimpse who you really are—if they don’t know, they won’t be able to make an informed decision about you.
5. Use Idealist to find opportunities
Idealist offers many free resources to assist you in your job search:
- Start by clicking Sign up to create a free profile. Fill it in and start connecting with other people and organizations that interest you.
- Activate free email alerts—save the criteria of one or more searches and Idealist will email you daily with relevant updates.
- Subscribe to Idealist Careers for daily updates on job search techniques and career development advice.
Good luck, and tell us how you’re jumpstarting your 2015 job search in the comments below.