Six Steps to Market Yourself in the Not for Profit Sector
14 July 2010 at 12:30 pm
Despite signs that the economy is improving, the Not for Profit job market remains extremely competitive and US employment organisation BridgeStar has produced a 6 step guide to marketing yourself in the Not for Profit Sector.
According to BridgeStar simply being a talented candidate is often not enough to land a senior leadership role, so job seekers need to get out and sell themselves to prospective Not for Profit employers.
Bridgestar is an initiative of the Bridgespan Group which provides Not for Profit management, job board, content, and tools designed to help Not for Profit organisations build strong leadership teams and individuals pursue career paths as Not for Profit leaders.
The idea of coming up with a personal marketing plan may be intimidating, but the following six steps will help job seekers put their best foot forward during a Not for Profit job search.
Step 1. Determine what you want—and what you have to offer
To market yourself effectively, it is important to know what you want from your next job. Ask yourself what you liked best about your most recent job, what you found most frustrating, and what you would change to turn it into your ideal job. Gaining clarity on your motivations, preferred work environment, the aspects of jobs that are most appealing to you, and the set of transferable skills you have and enjoy using will help you articulate why you are the right person for the job when you find an interesting opportunity.
Job seekers who are able to clearly convey the specific skills and experiences they have to offer to a potential employer can make themselves stand out from other qualified job candidates. This is true regardless of whether you are a sector switcher or a veteran of the Not for Profit sector.
Step 2. Maximize key resources
Not for Profit job seekers can make their candidacy stand out by taking a creative approach to the many job hunting resources that are available. For example, regularly checking online job boards that specialize in Not for Profit job listings is a given for most job seekers.
But Karen DeMay, senior director of executive search at the Bridgespan Group, says job boards can offer far more than just specific job leads. A careful reading of the listings can provide a broad overview of the needs of the Not for Profit sector, as well as a picture of which organisations are hiring and for which positions.
It can also show how well a candidate’s qualifications match up with the listed requirements for the types of jobs he or she is targeting. Candidates who uncover a critical area where they fall short can still put their best foot forward in interviews by stressing their other strengths or by explaining how they plan to get the support they need to offset that lack of expertise
Similarly, DeMay says recruiters also can help job seekers fine-tune their message. When you find a position in which you are interested, DeMay said it is perfectly reasonable to ask the recruiter what types of candidates are being considered for the job in terms of experience, education levels, and other factors.
Online social networking also can be an important tool, especially for Not for Profit job seekers who are conducting a regional or national job hunt. In fact, social networking guru Beth Kanter of Beth’s Blog, says social networking can “put old-fashioned networking on steroids” by allowing job seekers to market themselves far beyond the reach of their own Rolodexes.
Step 3. Set goals
Many Not for Profits have experienced staff cuts because of the tough economy. As a result, NFP executives are busier than ever and truly appreciate job seekers who are efficient and organized, says Bridgespan’s DeMay.
A good way to keep your personal marketing campaign on track is to plan out in advance the specific goals that you would like to achieve during each job seeking activity.
For example, if you’re a job seeker who has lined up a 30-minuteinformational interview with a senior executive at an intriguing Not for Profit, according to DeMay, you could reasonably accomplish these three goals:
- Get a sense of the organisation and its strategy, and whether the organization’s strategy includes any plans for growth and hiring;
- Establish a connection with the executive, learn about his or her role in developing or implementing the organization’s strategy, and offer ways you might be able to help him or her; and
- Convey your background, experience, what you’re looking for in your career, and how your qualifications align with the organization’s strategic goals.
Step 4. Prepare your “marketing” materials
Your resume and cover letter are often your first chance to make a good impression on a potential employer, so both should be personalized for each job opportunity and together they should tell a compelling story about who you are, what you have accomplished, and why the potential employer should want to meet you.
Beth Kanter notes that applying for jobs online and posting resumes on online job boards can dramatically broaden job seekers’ reach and boost their efficiency, but she says job seekers who go beyond simply entering their information into a job board’s database can reap even greater rewards.
Step 5. Establish your value within your organisation
DeMay says there is a trend among NFPs toward recruiting senior executives who are what she described as “mini executive directors,” i.e., people who not only possess content expertise but also have experience in team management, financial management, and experience managing external relationships with stakeholders.
She says those job seekers who already have that type of cross-functional experience should highlight that prominently in their job search materials and during interviews. Those who don’t have that experience—especially those who want to move up in their current organizations—should make it a priority to begin developing cross-functional skills by strengthening their work relationships.
The key, according to DeMay, is to think about the people in your organisation whom you would like to know more about your abilities and figure out how your work can complement theirs. One approach is to volunteer for cross-functional teams and company-wide task forces where you can bring some value to the team.
Step 6. Establish your value beyond your organisation
One of the best ways for job seekers — especially those from outside the Not for Profit sector — to showcase their readiness for a senior NFP management position is to point to their service on a NFP board.
Another way to establish your value beyond your organization—and improve your overall marketability—is to get out there and share what you know. If you have special subject expertise, volunteer to write articles for your organization’s newsletter or for industry publications.
DeMay says well-written articles that have been peer-reviewed are especially impressive to recruiters and hiring managers.
Professional organisations should also be part of your personal marketing campaign. These organisations often sponsor sector- or field-specific conferences and continuing education programs that can increase both your knowledge and your network of contacts beyond your employer.
The Bridgespan Group’s research shows that the Not for Profit sector has a continuing need for talented senior managers. But it says in this tough economy, even the most talented candidates need to find a way to stand out from the crowd of potential hires.
Marketing yourself effectively can be the key to getting a hiring manager’s attention and convincing him or her that you’re the right person for the job.
For the full document: How to Market Yourself in the Nonprofit Sector