By Reid Ricciardi, Executive Director of Talent Management, NC State University
It’s a Buyer’s Market! But, is this the right time for you to make a move? Let’s discuss.
As someone who is actively recruiting qualified, talented and motivated candidates to fill positions, I’m acknowledging a truism of the times: If you’re a fundraiser and looking for a new opportunity, there are jobs aplenty out there. A quick search using keywords specific to our field on Indeed.com or LinkedIn.com or on any search firm or organization website and you’ll see a lengthy list of openings. And it’s not just the non-profit sector, everyone is hiring.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, at the end of March there were 11.5 million open positions across the country. A near record high. In North Carolina 20% of state government jobs are currently vacant. Before the pandemic there were roughly 12.5 million Americans working in the nonprofit sector. By the start of 2021 that number dropped by over 1 million. But many nonprofits have been in aggressive re-staffing mode since then and that has translated to the current abundance of open positions.
So is it a good time to look? If you’re in the market, absolutely. I’m going to flip the question though: Is this the right time for you to be considering a job move? Just because you can, just because the opportunities are in abundance, doesn’t mean you should.
First Things First: Get Your Head In The Game
What’s your motivation to look and possibly move on from your current employer? Be honest here. Look in that mirror while you’re brushing your teeth tonight or tomorrow morning and ask yourself that question.
Is it for an increase in salary? There’s nothing wrong with that. Wages have been relatively stagnant for years, inflation is real and everyone has financial pressures to think about. Are you “burnt out” at your current job? Lets face it, a lot of people are burnt out after two years of a global pandemic. What exactly are you burnt out about? Maybe you’ve mastered your current role, gained valuable experience and you can’t imagine going through another fiscal year of rinse and repeat. That’s completely valid.
Now could be the right time to grow in terms of taking on more responsibilities like managing staff or a bigger team. Maybe you’re interested in shifting to a bigger or smaller shop. Are you looking for an organization that better aligns with your personal values? All are good questions to consider.
Sometimes, though, we can get stuck in a narrative, “self-talk” as the therapists say, and that narrative becomes the raison d’etre. Challenge your narrative, dig deeper to figure out why you’re feeling the way you are about your job, what your real motivations are for change and consider the value proposition for making a move. Make this an intentional thought process. Write it down, review it, do some honest reflection. Talk to a trusted friend, colleague or family member. In this job market, there’s no need to rush this critical part of the process. When you ask yourself questions like these, it can help narrow and define your search.
Need another reason for challenging your motivations behind starting a job hunt? During your interview at XYZ Nonprofit, you will at some point be asked to address why you are interested in the position at that institution? “Why is this the right next step for your career and why now?” Authenticity is appealing to hiring managers. And that authenticity starts (or at least it should start) with your self-reflection. If you can’t make an honest rationale for the job you’re in that interview for, if you’re struggling to come up with a compelling case, if it feels hollow, that’s probably a sign it’s not the right fit.
Start Your Search, Cast The Net
Generational graphic alert! Gen Xers and Boomers can directly relate to this image, albeit one that is a bit dated for today’s job hunting world. Thankfully we have many more resources at our fingertips these days to find a job. There are no trade secrets on where to look and how to cast the net. You could start by checking out the AFP Triangle jobs website (I get no kick-backs here, being on the AFP Triangle Board is an unpaid gig). A wide variety of nonprofits advertise with AFP so it truly is a good resource. And while we’re on the subject, check out other North Carolina AFP chapters including AFP Triad and AFP Charlotte. Check out CASE and refine your search parameters. The same is true for Indeed, LinkedIn, ZipRecuiter. The list of job search engines is as long as Googling lending companies.
Call me old fashioned, I prefer to go straight to the source. If you know the places you’d like to work, check out their HR job pages. You can be sure the information is accurate and up to date. And from there you can do some homework. Look up the development / advancement team, check out their website, maybe you discover that you know someone who works there. Or perhaps there’s just a degree or two of separation in a peer relationship. If you have built a strong network, chances are you know someone who knows someone. Leverage that to the max. LInkedIn is great for this kind of sleuthing too; instead of cold calling it’s cold messaging. As for introductions, ask someone for 15 minutes of their time. Who doesn’t have 15 minutes to indulge someone who has said some flattering things about them, their institution and would appreciate the opportunity to connect and learn more? Hell, I could probably get 15 minutes of the Governor’s time if I was persistent.
Finally, check out some of the leading search firms. Reach out, share your resume and let them know you’re on the market. Locally you could check out Moss + Ross, Capital Development Services, or Armstrong McGuire.
Don’t wear a tux, don’t bring your best friend and other suggestions for effective interviewing in 2022.
There’s so much already written about this subject and I won’t suggest that I’m an expert. I do have some perspective and opinions, though! Especially having sat through hundreds of interviews for fundraising roles over the past 5 years.
Here’s a short list of Do’s and Don’ts from the interviewing trenches:
- Do your &$%#?@! homework. Demonstrate that you took some time to learn about the organization and work that into the interview conversation. It’s not a Ph.D. research project, you don’t have a job there yet, but know the basics, appreciate the mission, have an idea of how much they raise annually and who their target constituency is. This is also referred to as the “know your audience” rule.
- Be familiar with the job description. (This sounds obvious, yet you would be surprised how often candidates don’t seem to have a grasp on the job they are applying for.) Read it, take notes, put yourself in the interviewer seat and practice how you would respond to their questions about how your experiences and skills make you a good candidate for the position.
- As you’re engaging with interviewers, be friendly, not chummy. The point is that interviews are serious affairs and while there’s space for revealing your personality, sense of humor and your ability to build rapport, resist the urge to over share, get personal or act like the people who are interviewing you could be your future new best friends.
- Rehearse the questions you anticipate being asked by talking them through out loud to yourself. You can do this in your car while driving to work or when you’re out on a walk. Sure, people might give you a weird glance or stare, but chances are you don’t know them. Get used to your voice, get comfortable with your thoughts and your narrative.
- A reminder that authenticity and motivation are all important to the interviewer. The more you think through your rationale for applying and why you are a great candidate for the position, the better that will come across when you’re sitting in the candidate chair at the interview.
- Even one error on your candidate materials is too many. You’re better than that. Proofread everything several times before submitting. If the materials are too familiar, start reading line by line from the end instead of always starting at the beginning. And enlist a trusted friend or family member to edit and provide an honest critique.
- Have thoughtful questions ready to go. Your questions say a lot about your interest, seriousness and how much you’ve really thought about the opportunity and the organization. “I don’t really have any questions” goes over about as well as if you pulled out a cigarette, took a long drag and asked “so when do I start?”
- Avoid saying anything negative about your current employer or team. If you’re looking to leave a toxic environment or need a break from a terrible boss, when you’re in the interview, focus on sharing what you’re seeking. What type of work environment and supervisors bring out your best, don’t reflect on what your current situation is like. You’re looking for a job and organization that will allow you to bring your best self to work every day. Focus on the future.
- Look your best and you’re more likely to feel your best.
In a buyers market, when inventories are high and there are a lot of homes on the market to pick and choose from, you get to be exactly that: picky. That’s certainly what we are seeing in the job marketplace at the moment. Job seekers have a plethora of options. Here’s another insight: there are a lot of qualified fundraising professionals out there who don’t want to move right now. The prospect of a significant life change, one that would require uprooting family at a time when things are finally returning to some degree of normalcy, presents a formidable roadblock. This translates to more pathways and opportunities for those who are actively looking.
So, if the timing feels right and you see some interesting openings, do your homework, be intentional, leverage your experience and start testing the water. You might find the temperature is just right.