Believe it or not, the end of the campaign trail is in sight and while it’s hard to think about much else besides GOTV stats and your campaign team’s eventual glory on Election Day, you can’t help but think: what’s next?
As election season comes to an end, many campaigners will be turning their attention to the job hunt, and nonprofits are looking for individuals with the organizer mindset: innovate quickly, think critically, write with purpose, understand online fundraising, and have the drive to be effective employees.
If you’re looking for a new gig after Election Day, here are a few steps to get you started on your nonprofit job search.
1. Update Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the most commonly used social network for job seekers and job recruiters. Most hiring managers will look up potential hires on LinkedIn, so make sure that your profile is robust and reflective of your past accomplishments.
Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to show off your work on LinkedIn. Short on time? Try to get your campaign manager or a fellow field organizer to write a recommendation about your work ethic.
From there, set aside an hour a week to make some simple improvements to your LinkedIn profile and it will be polished in no time.
2. Revise Your Resume
Working on your resume can be laborious, but it’s crucial to ensure that your resume accurately (and glowingly) reflects your accomplishments, on the trail and beyond.
There are thousands of resume resources (and even online courses) to help you write better resumes, but your best bet is to focus on making sure that each descriptive bullet includes some kind of quantitative result.
Include fundraising totals for the campaigns you worked on, total amount you raised, number of volunteers you recruited, or other quantitative results.
The more measurable your results, the more you’ll stand out over other potential candidates.
3. Identify Hubs in Your Network and Reach Out
Being personally recommended for a job or interview from a trusted source will move your resume out of the pile and into a manager’s hands.
The key to any job search is identifying the people you want to know, or the hubs of your network. Who do you know that has a large network in the nonprofit space?
Reach out to these people. Send an email letting them know you are in the market for a job, or better yet, try to meet with them in person and ask for advice on entering the nonprofit space.
When requesting a meeting, try offering something in return.
For example: “I’d love to chat with you about some of the digital best practices I learned while campaigning. We did some pretty innovative things that I think would be great for your organization.”
4. Research Potential Employers
Use your network to find out what organizations you’d be interested in.
Learn if you would be a good fit by asking questions about the organization, their reputation in the nonprofit space, their organizational culture, and the type of employees that work there.
The job search is all about finding a position and organization that will be the right fit for you - focus your efforts on contacts, not applications.
Avoid spending time applying to positions posted on public job boards, as those positions typically get more than 100 applications.
Focus on targeting individuals in your network at the organizations that you’d be interested in. Many organizations, especially smaller and mid-sized nonprofits, hire people through referrals.
Ready to browse listings? Here are some good places to start:
- Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN)
- CharityVillage (Canada)
- Wellstone (formerly New Organizing Institute)
- Progressive Exchange (DC, NYC & SF only)
- Democratic GAIN
- Jobs 4 Dems
- NonProfit Times
5. Prepare for the Interview
Hopefully you’ve been successful and secured an interview with a potential employer.
Do your research on the organization so that you can speak intelligently to their needs.
Ask for a list of the people you will be interviewing with and take a look at their LinkedIn profiles to find if you have any mutual connections.
Practice answering questions with the “Situation, Task, Action, Result” or STAR approach. If you are asked to “Give an example when…”, talk about the situation you faced, the specific actions you took to address the situation, and the result of those actions. Have a few STAR anecdotes in your back pocket before entering the interview.
As an example:
Interviewer: “Can you give me an example of a time you were under lots of stress and how you managed it?”
You: “We were two weeks out from Election Day and the polls showed that my candidate and our opponent were tied in the polls. We weren’t meeting our volunteer recruitment goals for Election Day so I knew I needed to try something different. I put together a digital campaign plan that targeted recent college graduates on Facebook and was able to increase volunteer recruitment by 60%.”
We wrote more about interviewing at nonprofits for Idealist Careers - check it out!
6. Set Yourself Up for Success
Congratulations, you got the job! Before your first day, be sure to ask your supervisor for metrics on how your performance will be measured.
The hardest part about starting a new job is knowing where to focus your attention, so having this type of clear guidance will help you get started on the right foot.
Check out these sites for even more tools to help you transition from the campaign trail to the third sector:
- Learn How to Become: resource center includes interview guides and cause-specific job search tips
- Idealist Careers: extensive library of resources and regular jobs roundups
- Glassdoor: company and salary research
- The Muse: articles, advice, and even career coaching