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8 Job Search Lessons from Successful Job Seekers

A road sign saying 'Dream Job'.

There are over 11,000 jobs on at nonprofits, government agencies, and social enterprises around the world. Wondering what it takes to find a job you’ll love? Read the success stories of people who found their dream jobs, and take a few steps today to get closer to finding your next gig.

1. Use your network

Michael Oghia found his job at a conflict resolution firm in India. His advice: “Use your network—that is a big deal. Don’t be afraid to ask if people know a place that would be a good fit or if they know somebody you should talk to.”

To do: Learn how to build genuine relationships with people online by thoughtfully using social media.

2. Have confidence in your abilities

Jenny Ugolino, a Horticultural Specialist at Brooklyn Community Services advises: “Have confidence in your own abilities. You might see a job that you think is a little bit of a stretch or that you might not have specifically done before, but if you feel like you have the skill set, go for it.”

To do: Not sure how to market yourself? Start by honing in on what makes you unique and crafting a personal mission statement that will serve as an elevator pitch.

3. Focus on fit

Zachariah Mattheus is the senior visual designer for a nonprofit that helps the academic community use digital technology to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways. His advice: “Be sure to be persistent and consistent. And be happy. If you’re not doing something you enjoy it might not be the right place for you.”

To do: Try answering these 9 questions that will help you determine if a job will be a good fit for you.

4. Don’t ignore your passion

Gregg Grenier landed his dream job by staying focused on exactly what he was passionate about. His advice: “If you are willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears (literally sweat and tears), then you will find that job that you are excited to go to everyday.”

To do: You can’t just follow your passion; you have to discover it. Here’s a simple equation to help you discover your passion.

5. Research organizations you want to work for

In addition to pursuing her passion, Samantha Neil made it a point to research the organizations she wanted to work for in advance: “I made it clear I was not taking the position just for a paycheck, but because I believed in the organization’s mission.”

To do: Learn as much as you can about an organization before accepting an offer. Here are five areas of an organization to explore.

6. Stay organized

In order to maintain control of her job search, Kate Horner emphasizes staying organized: “Job seeking is a frustrating process that can make you feel powerless. Staying organized will help you feel more in control – and it will help you identify patterns in the jobs you’re applying to, which can help you to better focus your search.”

To do: Don’t let your search get the best of you. Create a job search routine and journal about where you’ve applied and your search experience.

7. Switching fields? Emphasize transferable skills

Former Idealist social media and editorial intern Kimberly Maul utilized her experiences as a business journalist to make the transition into the nonprofit sector. Her advice: “All of this other work not only added to my experience and skill set , but it also allowed me to show that my interest in nonprofits and social media was genuine and that I was serious about this career transition.”

To do: Making a career switch? Emphasize these transferable skills in your resume and cover letter.

8. Volunteer to get your foot in the door

Jessica Thibodeaux landed her latest job by volunteering for the organization she wanted to work for. She advises: “When I started volunteering, I saw the hands-on work that the social workers do. Watching the people who do have a social working background at my job, I get to see exactly how they use their degree and what they do with it.”

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by Aaron McCoy

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