Does this happen to you? Someone brings up a random topic that you haven’t been thinking about and then, POOF! That topic pops up in five different conversations in the following week. It’s weird, right?
This happened to me last week. I was at a networking event in New York hosted by the fabulous Joanne Spears, superstar Financial Advisor. (Joanne puts on badass invite-only events for professional women so if you don’t know her, jump on over to LinkedIn and introduce yourself and get on her list).
Anyway, so I’m at this event talking to Helen, a woman who is trying to move from a career in corporate marketing to a career in nonprofit marketing. She was telling me about her job search and how difficult it has been to get traction. As she was talking, it occurred to me that Helen was applying for the wrong job.
That’s the topic that keeps popping up! Finding out what your dream job is called in a sector you don’t know.
(In a rush? Scroll down to your three action steps.)
In Helen’s case, she’s used to the corporate world. In the corporate world, there is a big budget for marketing. You promote your stuff through marketing so that people buy it, right?
The concept is basically the same in the nonprofit world except you are trying to get people to give you money. You talk about how great your “product” is and then you ask people to “buy” it by becoming donors.
But, there is one big difference between how corporations and nonprofitsdo marketing (well, probably more than one but for the sake of brevity, let’s say one).
Corporations have MONEY for sales and marketing teams. Nonprofits generally don’t. They usually only have money for one team and so they combine the roles into one position. Especially at small and midsize organizations.
So, say Nonprofit XYZ is looking for a VP of Development & Marketing. In his interview, Candidate 1 talks about all the great marketing things he can do for the organization. In her interview, Candidate 2 talks about how she’s going to increase the donor base by 300%.
Guess who is going to get the job?
Candidate 2! The one who focuses on bringing in donations because this is what nonprofits typically need the most. Yes, Candidate 2 will use her background in marketing to attract donors. After all, fundraising is 90% marketing (including relationship building) and 10% asking for money.
So, if you are trying to switch from one sector to another sector, focus on the skills required to achieve the objectives of the job, not the job title, because titles don’t always translate.
Here's what I want you to do:
Step #1: List Your Skills
Take a piece of paper and list all the skills that you want to use in your new career. Not just the skills you have, THE SKILLS YOU HAVE and WANT TO USE. This is important. If you are sick of baking cakes and you are going through the trouble of reinventing your career, why would you look for a job where you have to bake cakes? If you are going to drop dead of boredom if you bake one more cake, it won’t matter whether you drop dead in a Michellin Star restaurant or a soup kitchen. You’ll still be dead.
Step #2: Read Job Descriptions
Find five organizations or companies that strike your fancy and read the “skills required” part of their job postings. Ignore the titles. By the way, don’t get all discouraged if you don’t have every single skill listed. I’ve written tons of job descriptions and pretty much NO CANDIDATE ever had every skill on my wishlist.
Step #3: Learn the New Lingo
Start making a list of the job titles that are relevant to you and your skills in the sector you want to break into. That way, when you walk into your next meeting with a nonprofit headhunter, instead of saying, “I’m looking for a VP of Marketing position” and getting nowhere, you can say, “I’m interested in a VP of Fundraising and Marketing position” and watch the interview requests role in.
Oh, one last thing. Check your biases toward jobs titles. A lot of people DREAD the thought of fundraising but if you love connecting with people and helping them align with their values of doing good in the world, you might love fundraising. You won’t know until you try. So try.
P.S. - Last week, I promised to talk this week about how to get help with your next act but I sort of forgot. I’ll talk about getting help next week!