In this week's Ask Victoria, our reader wants to know whether to avoid applying to positions in which he is missing one of the requirements. In addition, he wants to know how to convince nonprofits to interview him. If you've been having these same concerns, read on!
Many of the job descriptions I’ve looked at in my search would seem to be good matches for me. I’ve gained skills in communication, organizing and coordinating, and collaboration in a career as a customer service program/project manager. Yet the positions require some experience in fundraising, even what appear to be entry-level positions. I do volunteer, but more as a "doer" than a fundraiser. Should I look for positions that don’t involve fundraising in order to get a foot in the door?
How do I convince nonprofits to at least give me an interview so we could discuss fit? It seems to me that if I fit 90% of their requirements, I could learn the other 10%. Or am I being naïve?
Guess what? Over the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewing HR professionals and hiring managers (I’ll be featuring these interviews in upcoming articles) and they have said that in most cases, passion trumps skills at their organizations. The skills, as you mentioned, can be learned, but the passion has to be there in order for you to maintain your momentum and your desire to do well in your role.
If you’re truly meeting 90% of the other qualifications for most of the jobs you’re interested in, you can (and should!) apply for them- unless of course the 10% that you’re missing is an integral part of the job. Assess the full list of requirements and how essential they are for the job. Be sure to highlight your strengths- you are not expected to point out the skills that you lack on your application, so lead with your abilities.
As I’m sure you know, you can certainly use your volunteer experience to your advantage. Demonstrate your passion for the cause, and whenever applicable, show how your volunteer experience relates to the job that you’re applying for.
While you mentioned that you haven’t done any fundraising, there are a couple of things you can do to supplement your experience. First, educate yourself on the skills needed to be successful in this area. For example, having customer service skills can apply to fundraising when you think in terms of building and managing relationships.
Which of the necessary skills do you already possess? These are the ones you should showcase on your resume. In your cover letter, write how you can use those skills effectively in fundraising.
This is a quick fix, so over the long term, try this: look at the organization where you are currently volunteering. See if you can get involved in the fundraising efforts that are already in place there. If there is no opportunity in the organization’s current efforts, why not broach the topic of working on a fundraising project of your own creation? Perhaps you can coordinate a fundraising event or survey potential donors on behalf of the organization. This would not only help you gain the experience you’re looking for, but it will express your initiative and drive.
Next, I'll address your question about interviewing. One of the keys to landing an interview is to make a solid match between your skills and experience, and the needs of the organization. So let’s backtrack a little bit. Take a look at the resume you’ve been sending and the listings for the jobs you’ve already applied for. How well do they match?
You’ll be less likely to be called for interviews if the synergy between the skills you’ve outlined on your resume and the job requirements is lacking. If your transferable skills- particularly those of most interest to the hiring organization- are not evident, make sure to address this in your applications going forward. Take the time to tailor your resume to your job applications. Remember to put your focus on quality rather than quantity. The number of jobs you apply to is not what matters- what’s important is that you apply to the ones that are likely to hire you. You can start uncovering which ones those are by making stronger matches between your skills and the organization’s needs, before you even send your application.
Please keep us posted on any improvements you see once you adopt this new approach!
To your success,