Question: What advice can you give to candidates—who may not have years of experience but still have worked hard to gain relevant skills—to market their value to potential employees? –J. Orloki, Alexandria, VA
Answer: Job searching is tricky. It’s tough work and very often feels endless. It can be especially discouraging to new grads or professionals seeking a career change, two groups that have unique experiences behind them that may or may not directly relate to the profession they’d like to enter. So what’s a person to do to increase their exposure even with limited experience? A few tips:
- For new grads, take stock of the skills you’ve gained from your time in clubs, classes, part time jobs or volunteer work. Professionals looking to change career paths can also do this for skills acquired from their current position and even outside hobbies, so long as they’re transferrable. If you find you’re missing a necessary skill, consider taking a class, obtaining a certificate or even pursuing a graduate degree.
- Expand your network by meeting as many new people as you can, no matter if it’s through more formal avenues such as networking events or volunteer work—or more casually—by tapping into your personal connections. Friends and acquaintances can be powerful resources to finding opportunities; approximately 70% of jobs aren’t published because so much of hiring occurs through people bringing on those they already have a relationship with.
- Find a connection between what interests you about a particular organization to your life and personal experiences. Ideally, you would be passionate about the organization’s mission and values and excited at the opportunity to contribute to them. Consider what about your personal “brand” and life experience resonates with the nonprofit. That way, even if the professional experience isn’t there, the personal will be; in turn, this connection may work in your favor when applying.
The biggest (and hardest!) thing to remember is to keep at the job search and know that—though it will take time and effort—there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Don’t be afraid to try new things; in fact, this may be the best time to do so, whether it’s a project you take the lead on in your current role or joining a young professional’s board. Employers will appreciate your proactive approach towards your career development!
Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen is president of Careers In Nonprofits, the experts in nonprofit staffing and recruiting with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.