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Making yourself more marketable: inside tips from top recruiters

By Amanda Ponzar

Jobs The economy’s starting to turn around. You heard it here! A few more colleagues moved on to new jobs this month (one with a big, fat promotion), I received two more recruiter calls, plus the “State of our Union is strong” says the Prez. According to LinkedIn, “January is...the most popular month for promotions," plus “more than 98% of US companies plan to increase base pay in 2011.” Sweet.

I’ve written about how to get a nonprofit job –- getting experience, standing out by demonstrating LinkedIn_logo_1[1] excellence, and using LinkedIn to build your online reputation/network.

So, I asked a few recruiters to share additional tips for getting a nonprofit job. Here's what they had to say:  

“The greatest challenge is understanding company culture.  Every organization has a culture that each person accentuates or takes away from.  Learn about the company's values and identify examples in your life/career that demonstrate you living out those values.  My advice is to ask an employee about the values of the organization, how the company defines the values and finally how employees have demonstrated those values in their life/career. This will give you a clearer picture of how you fit within a company culture. That matters because the most suitable candidate isn't always the most technically qualified.” –- Tim K., senior nonprofit recruiter

Delete the word “charity” from your vocabulary in talking about nonprofits or mission-driven work in general.  The next generation of nonprofits are looking for people who bring the same sense of urgency, creativity and nimbleness that you find in the best for-profit leaders, and can apply it to things other than the bottom line, like building a social movement, serving a particular constituency or attracting funding and "fan" support for a mission or cause. Particularly for sector switchers, there is a natural suspicion that you're looking to "retire" into work at an easier pace that you can "feel better" about.  Savvy candidates address their motivation questions proactively and head-on. "I am flexible at this point in my career and am looking to use what I've learned as an attorney in the private sector to serve the conservation cause, about which I'm passionate." Not: "I am tired of the corporate rat race and would be open to "giving back" to an organization that could use my expertise." If you want to give back, take a board seat, write a check, or volunteer your time; don't take on a nonprofit leadership position.”-- Allison Kupfer, Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group

“Nonprofit organizations have to face up to a variety of cultural, economic, and technological changes that must be dealt with in order for them to stay viable. Across the board, many have found that the key to viability is well trained and flexible employees who are responsive to this constantly changing environment. Nonprofit organizations need more from job candidates than just being proficient in various skill sets. The ideal nonprofit job candidate should possess the skills that allow the organization to thrive in all business aspects including fundraising, financial management, operations, and marketing.” -- Christopher T. Bertschy, McCarthy Bertschy & Associates, Inc.

"I know it sounds self serving, but it’s a very good way to get a nonprofit job:  Register with a recruiter! If you are looking for a job in the nonprofit world, especially working at one of the direct marketing agencies that serve nonprofits, recruiters are an excellent resource. We have an extensive network of contacts, and are frequently asked to recruit nonprofit talent for openings in creative, analytics, and account work." Wendy Weber, Crandall Associates, Inc.

Hungry for more?

Google Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group also is offering a webinar on managing your online reputationand I loved how they marketed it: “What comes up if you Google yourself? The job search, as well as your personal reputation, now depend on your maintenance of a positive internet presence. These days, employers (current and prospective) can easily find out what you are saying on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, how you’ve rated books on, letters to the editor you’ve written, campaign contributions, and much more. This, combined with your work history and references, creates an overall image or perception of who you are, professionally and personally.”

So, get out there, make yourself more marketable, and good luck!


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Amanda P.

Here's a list of tips to "nail an interview" as well:

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