- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
Ami Dar is founder and executive director of Idealist.org and Meg Busse directs their Career Transitions Programs. Look for additional posts from Idealist.org over the next month, as they will be contributing their own mini-series as part of this Nonprofit Job series with advice on working in the nonprofit sector.
Sokunthea: It’s March 2010 and as I've mentioned before, it seems like the overall job market still looks bleak. What have you witnessed in terms of the nonprofit job market?
Ami: Using our job listing rates as an informal market gauge for nonprofit jobs, 2010 is looking better than 2009. When the stock market crashed in the fall of 2008, our job listings decreased by nearly 50%, stayed down through the first half of 2009 and started recovering slowly towards the end of the year. In January and February of 2010, job listings were up 20% compared to the same period in 2009.
The job market is still challenging, and we anticipate it will take a while longer for us to reach our pre-crisis listing levels, but the posting rates for the beginning of 2010 are encouraging.
Sokunthea: That is encouraging to know that there is an increase in job listings. How about on the job seeker side, have you seen a change in the number of people looking for nonprofit jobs - those looking to switch sectors, new graduates looking for their first jobs?
Meg: There's been a growing number of people looking to create a career in the nonprofit sector, from recent grads seeking careers that merge passion and paycheck, to mid-career professionals who have either been laid off or are unhappy in their current job, to baby boomers who either can't or aren't ready to retire just yet. Nonprofit jobs can offer flexible, mission-focused opportunities that allow anyone to take on a new challenge (or several!) while developing and utilizing a wide range of skills.
With the current economy and the increased interest in careers that have a social impact, there are plenty of people looking for nonprofit jobs. But there are even more people looking for ANY job. In order to stand out from the latter group as well as create a job search that is manageable and efficient, job seekers need to know their options and be able to articulate what they want. A great way to do this is to try the short, nonprofit-focused self-assessment exercises in The Idealist Guides. These will help job seekers move from thinking, "I want to work in a nonprofit" to being able to gain a much clearer understanding of why this type of work interests them and what their options are.
Sokunthea: Interesting, do you have other key pieces of advice for individuals looking to land a nonprofit job?
Meg: Along with self-assessment, networking is also key to finding out more about the sector and hearing about jobs that may never be posted. However, the traditional networking events aren't the best way to network. Instead, try volunteering or doing informational interviews. By volunteering, not only do job seekers gain valuable experience to put on their resume, get to know people in the sector, demonstrate their value and skills to potential employers, but they also are able to get a sense for whether this is really the type of work they're interested in doing before they commit to a full-time position. Informational interviews are similar in that they offer an opportunity to connect with people doing interesting work and hear the inside scoop on a broad range of nonprofit jobs. Informational interviews are also a great way to cultivate a stronger network, as at the end of each interview, it's easy to ask if the person can suggest a few other people who would good to talk with. Voila! New connections, conversations, and opportunities.
And while the economy is not as conducive to quickly creating that ideal job in the nonprofit sector right now, this is the ideal time to begin cultivating a stronger network, exploring the diverse range of nonprofit careers, and demonstrating commitment to an issue or cause. This way, when that great job does come along - whether by word of mouth or posted on Idealist.org - all of the pieces are in place to seize the opportunity and create that exciting new nonprofit career.
Sokunthea: To people who only know Idealist.org as a job search site, what else should they know about your organization to be able to take full advantage of what is offered?
Ami: At Idealist, our goal has always been to help people turn their good intentions into action. It's true that connecting people to nonprofit jobs has been a huge part of this – but we also do it by helping like-minded people find one another; by helping groups find volunteers to help achieve their projects; by creating blogs, podcasts, and resources that help to spread good ideas; and so on. Folks can sign up for free email alerts and get information nightly about events, programs, volunteer opportunities, internships, and yes, jobs, that match their areas of interest and skill sets.
In November we launched the Idealist Network (tagline: Imagine, Connect, Act), helping people around the world move from intention to action, online and in person. As part of this, we recently conducted a survey asking the members of the Network to think of a moment in their lives when they had an idea or wanted to take action on any issue, but didn't do it. We wondered what stopped them, and what would have helped them at that point.
More than 500 people responded to the survey, and the breadth of answers was astounding – the obstacles to action that people described range far beyond the predictable "money" and "time." There is a lot we can do to help people overcome these barriers, and we are excited to begin! You can read more about the survey on the Idealist Network blog, or view the raw data here.
More about Ami and Meg: Ami Dar is the founder and executive director of Idealist.org. He is an Ashoka Fellow and currently serves on the boards of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and Allforgood.org. Meg Busse directs Idealist's Career Transitions Programs. She is co-author of The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers, a free-for-download guide for people looking to break into the sector, and serves on the National Board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.