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Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Job Seekers

The New Year is a great opportunity to revitalize a job search. To help you do so, we’ve compiled ten resolutions that are easy to keep, and will position you for success.

1. Create a job search strategy. Take some time to evaluate what you want. Build a plan that describes your ideal position, organization, and work culture. You can then use this information to target specific nonprofits and understand which positions fit your interests.

2. Identify your core competencies. Core competencies are the skills and characteristics that position someone for success in a particular job role, such as staff management, quantitative analysis, or teamwork. By determining your top 4-5 core competencies, you will be able to assess your potential fit with a position, as well as highlight your specific competencies in your application materials.

3. Invest in informational interviewing. Informational interviews can help further define what you’re looking for in a job. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a connection on LinkedIn, a member of your alumni association, or someone you met at a fundraising event. Most nonprofit professionals enjoy talking about their work, and are open to helping job seekers gain more information about a particular role, organization, or mission area.

4. Build your personal network.  Many nonprofits do not post their open positions on job boards. Instead, they rely almost entirely on their personal networks to identify candidates. Remember to invest time in building your personal network, as well as communicating with the members of your network to make sure they know you’re on the job market!

5. Do your homework. Research the role, organization, and mission area before you apply to a position. Not only will this help you understand your potential interest in the position, but it will also help you connect the dots in your application materials. An informed job seeker stands out from the crowd.

6. Personalize every cover letter. Nothing sends you to the bottom of the “no” pile of resumes faster than sending off a generic cover letter. Never send a letter to “To Whom It May Concern.” And when you cut and paste the same cover letter to every job on Idealist.org, believe us, hiring managers can tell.

7. Illustrate your core competencies in your resume. Don’t just list your accomplishments in your resume. Based upon your top core competencies, use real-life examples of how you’ve demonstrated these skills or characteristics. For example, illustrate a staff management competency by describing specific ways that you provided support and assessed employees in the past.

8. Prepare for interviews. If you tend to be nervous during interviews, try to practice responses ahead of time, or do a “dry run” with a friend. In addition to practicing responses, remember to prepare a few smart questions that illustrate that you did your homework and that you are genuinely interested in the position.

9. Stay in touch with your references. Good references can easily turn bad if you forget to keep in touch with them. A brief email every month or so to update them on your job search status, as well as a “heads up” note to inform them that a potential employer may be in touch with them, will prepare these important people to speak highly of you when the time comes to provide a reference.

10. Stay positive. A job search can be tough, especially in today’s economy. Being positive, smart, articulate, energetic, thoughtful, flexible, and passionate are crucial characteristics in most nonprofit environments, so maintain your confidence and positive attitude. Job searching is difficult but no one wants to hire someone who seems unenthusiastic, demoralized, or defeated.

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