Since 2013, Idealist Careers has been bringing you tips, strategies, and sound advice to help you find, land, and love your social impact career. Throughout that time, we’ve invited our community to contact us with questions, worries, and challenges you face in job searching and in meeting your career development goals. Many of you have reached out, and when you do, we try to reply personally—with a link to a helpful Idealist Careers article that addresses your concern, a list of resources, or a kind and motivating word. You reach out and we hear you.
As more and more of our readers have come forth with questions, we got to thinking: How can we address the individual while sharing the same valuable, comprehensive resources to our larger audience?
Our solution is Ask Victoria, an advice column (written by me, a practicing career development professional and Idealist Careers’ Manager of Career Content) that provides personalized, actionable responses to your burning career and job search questions.
Using the nurturing yet achievement-focused approach I cultivated while working as a career counselor both in higher education and at a professional coaching company, I address your career struggles with encouragement and respect, while opening up discussions to your fellow readers. This gives you the opportunity to share and receive the collective wisdom of our community.
When your question is selected to be featured in the column, you receive:
- Practical tips you can apply that very day
- Thought-provoking questions to help you assess your situation, refresh your perspective, and frame your next steps
- A dash of motivation (and a little cheerleading, too!)
All in the warm, intelligent, and light-hearted approach of Idealist Careers that you’ve come to know and love.
Want to submit a question? Keep reading!
Hey, this sounds great! What types of questions can I send?
Glad you asked! We will be focusing on job search and career development topics like:
- Finding and pursuing your passion: Not sure what you want to do? Like your current job but want a slight change in direction? Don’t know what to do with your degree? Looking for a new spark after being in the same career for 20 years? These are some of my favorite questions because it really gets to the “heart” of you, what excites you and gives you a sense of fulfillment.
- Planning and managing your job search: How do you look for “hidden” or “unpublished” opportunities in your area of interest? What do you do when you’ve been out of work (voluntarily or not) for a while? How much time should be spend on applying versus networking and building relationships? What I love about these nitty-gritty questions on the logistics of searching and applying for opportunities is that I can base my responses on guidelines from the “front lines” (recruiters and hiring managers) yet still personalize the strategy to your specific situation.
- Writing a resume and cover letter: How do you write a “wow-worthy” resume that gets noticed by employers? How do you customize your document to a particular career field or cause area? How do you keep the focus on your accomplishments rather than job duties? What about format (Can it be longer than a page? What about font style, etc)? After writing and revamping thousands of resumes, this has become one of my strong suits! Please note: While I love to talk shop about resumes, resume reviews are not offered as a feature of the Ask Victoria column at this time.
- Interviewing well: How do you prepare for an interview? How do you craft intelligent, thoughtful responses to interview questions? What do you wear? How do you calm jitters? How do you get selected for an interview in the first place? In order to interview well, placing emphasis on these things is really helpful: maintaining confidence, knowing your fit (in relation to both skills and organizational culture) and effectively articulating it to the employer, and preparation. I’m always excited about helping an interviewee prepare by delving into their work history and excavating great anecdotes that illustrate their candidacy!
- Networking effectively: How do you network when you’re introverted or shy? How do you ask someone for an introduction? What is an informational interview and how do you facilitate one effectively? How do you maintain relationships with your contacts? What if you’ve “burned a bridge?” What I love about networking questions is that I had them once, too! After years of practice, I’ve learned to prepare pre-event so that I’m comfortable with putting myself out there, and I’ve reframed the term “networking” in my mind and defined it as “developing relationships” or “getting to know someone.”
- Developing your career: What are up-and-coming jobs in your field? How do you keep your skills fresh? How do you seek out opportunities for your growth and professional development? What should you do in order to shine at work? Should you go to grad school and what should you study? While it might not seem like the case, there is an element of “finding your passion” in this topic. Identifying the direction you should go to develop your career can in many cases rely on self-assessment and discovering you.
- Your well-being: How do you keep your confidence up while job searching (or going for your next promotion)? How do you invest in self-care when you’re on a budget? How do you get over the hurdle when you’re faced with rejection or your supervisor gave you negative feedback? What if you feel inferior because your skills are outdated? Yes, work is important and in our field, work is our way of making the world a better place. But with this comes hurdles in how we take care of ourselves and each other. I look forward to helping people identify and appreciate their strengths and the unique gifts they have to offer, as well as finding activities that appeal to their needs in a holistic way.
How do I make sure you select my question?
Give details! Mention your career field of interest and cause area, and whether you are a sector switcher or long-term unemployed. Share an anecdote from an actual job search situation or interview, or list the requirements and responsibilities of a job that you want to apply to. Give insights into how long you’ve been looking for work, whether you’ve changed gears along the way, your years of experience in the field, and anything else that will give a clear picture into your situation. Send your detailed question to email@example.com.
Here are examples of good questions:
I left the workforce five years ago to take care of my two children, and now, at the age of 40, I’d like to go back. I started searching about two months ago and during that time, my spouse also lost his job, and now money is tight. Plus, with both of us home all day and stressed about finding work, we’ve been driving each other a little crazy. I’ve started to set up my “office” at a local coffee shop so we don’t get in each other’s way while we’re job searching. What can we do to support each other better and make the job search feel less overwhelming?
I’ll be interviewing at X organization in a couple of weeks for their next Fellows cohort group. I’m excited about this opportunity because they place recent grads in nonprofit organizations, so I’ll be able to get hands-on experience in the field. My friend interviewed for the same program two years ago and said the interviews were really grueling: you meet with multiple people, all wanting details about past performance in addition having to complete an assignment on site. How do I prepare? How do I keep nervous jitters at bay?
What are your policies on privacy?
All personal names will be changed (or omitted upon request) and contact details will be removed. In order to provide readers with context, we may (with permission from the querent) disclose actual job titles and/or organizations you are pursuing in your job search.
Are there any questions you can’t answer?
While I’m honored that you entrust me with your tough career questions, there are a few topics I won’t touch! If you’ve got questions about legal, financial, or psychological issues, I won’t be able to offer advice. Instead, I may suggest you identify a trained, skilled professional who can provide you with personal expertise in the area you need.
So, who’s Victoria?
Throughout my 15+ year career in resume writing, career coaching, higher education, and working with nonprofit job seekers, I’ve used an approach that is nurturing yet practical and driven to high achievement. In my role as Manager, Career Content at Idealist Careers, I write career articles and develop online programming, webinars, and email courses. I fervently seek out the latest insights and technology for today’s social impact job seekers and leaders. Now, I bring my expertise to the “Ask Victoria” career advice column, and look forward to answering your burning career and professional development questions! To ask your question, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter @_AskVictoria.