I am excited to present our very first Ask Victoria article! Below is a question from Jim about staying motivated about your job search when you’re working at a “Plan B” job:
Presently, I have had to move on to my 'Plan B' job (in fact, I would say it is more like Plan E or F, since I never wanted to be back in this line of work) to pay the bills. Anyway, now that I am back working full-time as a contract computer programmer, I have a lot less time to do job searches and networking. I still receive email listings of possible jobs (words that have homeless, homelessness, fundraising, etc) and occasionally, I visit idealist and some other job posting sites.
I spend so much time now in front of my computer, when my work day is done (on average it is 9 hours a day) I look forward to shutting it off and not even check email or facebook. So, my question is, how can I stay excited about the prospect of finding a non-profit job when I don't seem to have the time to search for that job ? As a secondary question, what more can I do to automate the process so employers can find me for prospective jobs (I have a robust LinkedIn profile and have my resume posted on a few sites (i.e. Indeed)?
Thank you for your time.
Thank you for your question! You bring up an issue that many who are seeking their next step while working full-time are experiencing- it is quite tempting to give in to that desire to stay off the grid once the work day is over. Naturally, that will affect your quest to find employment, but let’s look into some options that won’t require so much attention to your computer (or your inbox).
Reconnect with your motivation
I had a chat recently with Cathy Wasserman of Self-Leadership Strategies on the this very topic. What sprung to mind for her was the importance of finding ways to reconnect with that part of you that wants to transition to a nonprofit career. “The first thing is to be aware that you can’t have energy when you simply don't have it,” she states, and since looking for a job does take energy, the first step is to, “reconnect to your inspiration---the mission or cause that drives you---and let that be your motivator.”
When I asked Cathy how she would recommend a job seeker reconnect, she suggested engaging in some quiet time for reflection or chatting with someone with whom you can “bat ideas back and forth” and brainstorm ways you are called to contribute. “It’s really important to get support to stay on track,” she advises, “whether it’s a family member, friend, mentor, clergyman, or career coach.” She emphatically recommends finding, “the space to connect with that original inspiration to make the change because there is no gasoline like intrinsic motivation.”
Once you have reconnected with your “why,” take what you need to do in bite-size pieces. Cathy suggests that job seekers carve out a few minutes throughout the day to make their searches more manageable. Perhaps you set aside 5 minutes during lunch to skim through some postings, and work on your resume at 20-minute intervals when you get home at night.
All that said, we are both in agreement that relying mainly on job postings is not the best strategy to finding a job. In fact, one way to avoid going stir-crazy and click-happy while reading job descriptions online is to get out and meet with people in person.
I recommend scheduling quick, informal chats or “catch-up” sessions with friends and family in your circle, as well as professional contacts and mentors. These can resemble informational interviews, but don’t have to be focused solely on career-specific topics.
Avoid looking at these catch-up times as something that you do only when you’re job searching. Make it part of your regular routine. By doing so, you have greater potential to be in the loop about new opportunities, advancements in your field or a related one, collaborations (personal or professional) that fuel your passions, as well as the chance to “pay it forward.” You also reap the added benefit of keeping your relationships robust, warm, and intimate.
The main purpose of these informal chats is not, “Do you know of a job for me?” or “Can you pass along my resume?” While people typically want to help, if they don’t know of any openings or are not familiar with the type of work you want to do, their opportunity to assist you pretty much ends there. So have clear aims in mind and make it “easy” for them to help you by making specific asks. It can be as simple as asking, “I’d really like to know more about your work and how your organization makes an impact. What does a ‘typical’ day at work look like to you?”
If they are not in the same career field as you, that’s okay. Be alert for any snippets of insight while they are talking. They may mention a colleague who made a career move similar to the one you are making, an organization you’d like to pursue, or a new process that you’d like to learn about. Later, you can investigate these new leads in more detail.
What are some other ways your circle can help you? Some ideas to get you started:
- Ask about their interests and hobbies and how those helped develop into who they are today.
- Inquire about their career path and specific job. What do they like about it? What do they wish they knew before they started? Explore whether it is something you can do or would be interested in.
- How did they make a career transition? If they don’t work in your field, make sure you craft your questions in such a way that you can apply their advice to your situation.
- What's a personal challenge that they've had and how did they overcome it? Remember to look deeper to see how you might apply their solutions to your own situations.
- What resources have they would turned to for help in finding work?
- How do they stay motivated while looking for a job?
- Would they be open to reviewing your resume? If they are not familiar with your career field, simply ask them to look it over for typos, grammatical errors, etc.
- Ask, “after reading my resume, what type of job do you think I’m looking for?” See if their response matches what you’ve been going after.
- Survey friends in your field by asking, “What new advancements are you seeing and how can I keep myself up-to-date?”
- Start a conversation by asking, "Who is your greatest inspiration and why? What have you learned from them?"
- Ask if they know anyone who has interests (personal or otherwise) similar to yours and if they'd be willing to make an introduction.
- Request that they introduce you to their friends/contacts in your field. Ask them to make recommendations based on what they know about you, your strengths and personality, and your work. Who might be a good fit or someone you’d really get along with?
- Ask them what’s new, what they’re currently involved in, what they might need help with. Maybe they are looking for someone to remodel their bathroom, and you have a great company you can refer. Share your value by giving as well as receiving.
- Turn to them simply for emotional support and a listening ear. Not every friend will have a solution, and not every friend needs to have one in order for your interaction to have worth.
In addition to scheduling these chats, take time for the things that you enjoy. Engaging in activities, even if it feels like “play” can have great benefits to your well-being by relieving stress, stimulating your mind, and enhancing creativity. Take Cathy’s earlier advice about reconnecting to your inspiration to heart. Also, you’d be surprised by the leads you can obtain just by casual interaction through activity groups such as a community sports team, book club, or volunteer group at a local charity. Most people find it easier to form bonds around a common interest, so take the opportunity to expand your circle.
Cultivate an active job search
While the above suggestions may take some of the pressure off, the time will come when you’ll need to focus on searching for jobs and sending out applications. If you’re still feeling unmotivated when you really need to hunker down and get to task, try to focus on the outcome rather than the drudgery of the activities. Imagine the difference you will experience in your life when you find a job that matches your values and skillset.
In regards to automating the process, keep in mind that a passive approach is not always the best one when it comes to finding a job. You may have already set up job alerts that target geographic areas, job titles, and keywords. That’s an easy system of automation and allows the listings to come to you. However, while it can help with the process of weeding out all the jobs you’ll find online, when your approach becomes less hands-on, it may not have the result you are seeking.
That being said, if you already have a well-done LinkedIn profile, you might consider developing a personal website that showcases your personal brand and targets what employers look for.
Finally, consider developing active relationships with recruiters. In a recent webinar, Kevin Flynn, Vice President of Recruiting and Candidate Services at Commongood Careers had some great reasons to cultivate relationships with recruiters: gaining market intelligence and trend information, job search feedback, and access to the “hidden” job market. Remember that you will need to be pretty active to keep these relationships alive, but they can help you feel a little more in control of your search and less at the mercy of the “apply online” button.
To your success!
By Victoria Crispo