While we are happy to share resources and tips, we think the Idealist community is brimming with good ideas and steps for finding your dream job. Below, Tes Cohen, a Program Coordinator at Futures and Options shares her experience job searching, what she was looking for, and what helped her find the perfect job.
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Ever since high school, I dreamed of joining the Peace Corps as a means of engaging in meaningful grass-roots community development abroad. After graduating college, I did just that, working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Costa Rica. Upon returning to the states, I connected with an organization I had collaborated with in Costa Rica that runs cultural exchange programs to Cuba. While rewarding, the role was more sales-oriented and I always knew I wanted to get back into the youth development sector that I found so fulfilling as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Looking for a change
Though intimidating to think of the number of people applying to any one job amidst our current economic climate, I found Idealist to be a great starting point for my job search. An important step in any job search is to identify a target list of organizations (and then share it with everyone you know in the hopes of scoring an information interview with someone that works at one of them). What I love about Idealist is that by perusing the postings, I discovered organizations whose missions were aligned with my passions and skills.
When I came across the posting for Program Coordinator at Futures and Options, a small non-profit that empowers youth through career exploration and work readiness training, I was ecstatic. My Mom is a career counselor so I essentially learned interview and resume writing tips by osmosis. In my cover letter, I included this personal anecdote. Also, I saw from the staff bios that the staff member who posted the job was also an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). I mentioned this shared connection in the brief email that I sent, attaching my resume and cover letter.
Tips for getting through the search
Last month, we were hiring for another Program Coordinator and it was fascinating to be behind-the-scenes of a job search. Thinking about what worked for me and what we were looking for on the hiring side, I’d like to offer two pieces of advice:
- Tailor your cover letter. If we receive a generic cover letter with no mention of how the person’s experiences related to our organization (let alone a cover letter that doesn’t mention the name of our organization, period!), we probably won’t even open up the resume.
- Be specific about how your past experience relates to the job you’re applying for. We cringed when someone who was a teacher didn’t even mention it in the cover letter (and included details that were totally not relevant to the position). If you have jobs/volunteer experiences that relate to the job (which you should!), spell it out in the cover letter. Bullet points are a great, reader-friendly way to do so.
I think the #1 thing to keep in mind is that if you are truly enthusiastic and qualified for a job, be sure to make that abundantly clear in your cover letter and resume. Craft a thoughtful cover letter as well as a resume with absolutely no grammatical or spelling errors, send it out, and if it’s meant to be, you will receive a call to meet in person and can wow them in the interview! Good luck!
About The Author
Tes currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She works as a Program Coordinator at Futures and Options empowering youth through career development. She’s excited to be starting NYU’s MPA program part-time in January ’13.