My Five Week Networking & Job Blitz
A little over a year ago I found myself in uncharted territory. I had recently completed my master’s degree in nonprofit management and was looking to change careers from the faith-based nonprofit sector, where I had been for five years, to the general nonprofit sector and I didn’t know where to begin.
I began meeting with a family friend who became my career coach. Through her support and “assignments,” I started the craziest five weeks of my life which I now call my “five week networking blitz.” At the end of the five weeks I had met with 25 nonprofit professionals, applied for ten jobs, had three interviews and took a new position. My career search had become my full-time job.
As I look back on my five week networking blitz, there are six takeaways which made me successful in my career search.
You are looking to make connections not just get a job
Yes, the end goal is to find a job but don’t expect every conversation to be about getting a job. Not everyone is hiring but the connection you are meeting with may know about an opening. You are looking to build your “black book” of nonprofit contacts. People you can reach out to when you are struggling with something on the job and people who begin to think about you when a job opening occurs. These connections will be partners throughout your professional career.
Make a list of your nonprofit connections
Make a list of all of your nonprofit connections with their organization, position, phone number, email and mailing address. Highlight contacts who will be most beneficial to your search.
When first sitting down it may seem like your list is going to be short, but think about everyone you interact with. These people can include classmates, past colleagues, someone you met through YNPN Denver, board members, or organizations at which you volunteer. Another challenge would be to add people who work at your “dream” organization. This may be a stretch, but remember, you are only looking to make a connection, not get a job offer.
Ask for an informational meeting
Once you have come up with your list of nonprofit professionals, begin setting up informational meetings with these individuals. Once again, you are looking for information which will help you professionally. If you know you are looking to move from programming to development, meet with a development director and ask questions about what working in development looks like and how you can break into the field.
Remember, people love to talk about their jobs and why they do it. You are interviewing them and you are telling them about you and what type of position you are looking for. At these informational meetings also ask them for some of the best resources they have used in their own profession.
If you meet them for coffee or lunch, offer to pay. Don’t forget, they are taking time out of their schedules to meet with you and offering to pay shows you value the conversation.
Ask for two additional connections
At each informational meeting ask your contact for two additional contacts that may be beneficial for your job search. You are trying to spread your networking net as far as you can, but depending on your professional experience your initial net might be small. By reaching out to their contacts you are meeting with new connections that may have other leads. Instead of just you looking for a job you now have four people looking for opportunities.
From my initial list of 30 connections I ended up with a list of over 60 people. I am now connected to people whose paths I would never have crossed if I hadn’t asked for additional contacts.
Write a handwritten thank you note
This by far is the most important step to the networking blitz. You need to send a handwritten thank you note for your informational meeting. Why handwritten? You want to show that the conversation was valuable and deserves the time it takes to write a handwritten message. In the note write about the meeting, thank them for the connections (reminding them to send you their information if they haven’t given it to you) and write about something specifically that was talked about at the meeting. For example, if they said they are in the middle of a large fundraising event wish them luck.
Write the thank you note in the car right after the meeting and stick it in the mailbox the same day. By doing this you are making sure you cover everything you talked about but also show how important the conversation was for you.
At the end of the networking blitz follow up with all your contacts. Thank them again for their time, update them on any new developments and keep in touch with them sporadically throughout the year. Once again, these are not just contacts for the five weeks but contacts for the rest of your career. Just as fundraising professionals need to steward relationships, you need to steward relationships with your contacts.
Drop them a note around Thanksgiving thanking them for their help in your professional career. Email them about a job opening they might be interested in. When you change jobs, let them know.
At the end of the day, remember it is a two-way street. Right now you might need their help in finding a job but you want to be there for them when they need you.
Have you ever participated in your own networking blitz? What were some takeaways which may be beneficial for others? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Betty Jeanne here and I’m thrilled to be in dialogue with all of you. As this blog recently announced, I’m one of the LaunchPad fellows working with YNPN National this year. The focus of my work is on talent management: how YNPN (and the larger nonprofit sector) recruits, develops, and retains leaders for our crucial work. Part of my task is evaluating and strengthening the internal systems and structures YNPN uses for talent management. However, I’m especially eager to contribute to a sector-wide conversation about the topic - and to hear from all of you about your own wisdom and experiences.
As I began working with YNPN, I found great alignment between my own vision for the nonprofit sector, and that of our national organization. We were asking similar questions: How do you best support the exceptional leaders - both paid and volunteer - to make our vision a reality? What unique opportunities and challenges does the nonprofit sector face with leadership development? What best practices have YNPN chapters developed around talent management, and how can we amplify those lessons to be shared nationally?
Personally, my approach to talent management reflects my overall orientation to nonprofit leadership. My work centers on relationship; on building and leveraging a diverse network in service of an organization's mission and vision. I support the holistic wellbeing of both paid and unpaid leaders, knowing their experience – from recruitment to retention – plays a crucial role in determining an organization's success.
I’m aware that the practice of talent management (TM) is rapidly changing due to shifts in the nonprofit sector, economic and political climates, generational turnover in the workforce, and new technological developments. We will need greater innovation and creativity to first identify the human resources (or “people power”) needed to accomplish an organization’s goals, then to find ways to strategically meet those needs.
Some of the lessons I’ve gathered about talent management:
- Organizations have their own unique SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for talent management (TM). A strategy for TM must consider these factors in order to enable an organization reach its particular goals.
- The nonprofit sector specifically requires us to value and develop both unpaid (volunteer) talent and paid staff, and to explore hybrid models of paid and unpaid staffing.
- Understanding and addressing generational differences – for example, how to connect more effectively with an increasing workforce of tech-immersed “Millennials” – is essential. Fostering intergenerational community contributes to organizational vitality overall.
- More than ever, professional and personal lives are managed through social media and mobile platforms: our methods of outreach must respond to this trend.
- Increasing turnover rates call us to a greater emphasis on retention that responds to leaders’ individual needs. Personally, I am passionate about one-on-one support of leaders, as well as strengthening overall morale and teambuilding.
- Organizations must combine external recruitment with internal development (building skills and leadership among existing leaders) to ensure the talent they need.
- Leaders need to feel a positive connection not only to an organization’s brand, but to the underlying values that guide its work.
- We can learn so much from intentionally observing and evaluating the experience of both current leaders (retention), as well as potential candidates (recruitment).
- Talent management must be an ongoing, intentional process that engages all stakeholders – staff, volunteers, board members, donors, etc. – in building the strongest organization possible.
Most of all, I’m eager to learn from all of you about your own experiences with talent management, and exchange ideas for how to make this part of our work even stronger. In the comment box below, I’d love to hear:
- How are the points above showing up in your organization? Where are you struggling? Where are you making inroads?
- What great resources or insights have you come upon lately in these areas?
Chapter leaders: keep an eye out for an invitation for you to contribute your own lessons, questions, and best practices on talent management in the coming months. We’ll be sharing tools and resources over social media, and exploring the topic more deeply on the YNPN blog.
by Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator
Those of you who were with me at the joint YNPN/CompassPoint Nonprofit Day back in August probably came out of the day feeling energized by all of the discussions about innovations that will help to create a more effective and impactful sector – everything from new models of multigenerational leadership to rethinking the way that we make decisions on the personal and organizational levels.
However, one of the most exciting innovations that struck me was the announcement of the pending launch of the American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union (ANFCU) - a federal credit union specifically for the non-profit sector. So I made a note to follow up on this initiative and learn more about what it would look like, what it would mean for the sector, and what it might mean for YNPNers in particular.
So I recently had the chance to talk with Pamela Davis, the President of American Nonprofits, and Charlie Wilcox, the organizer of the American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union. Here’s what they had to say about this new effort:
Dan Blakemore (YNPN National Board): Okay, first things first - how does a credit union work?
Charlie Wilcox: A credit union is a cooperative business equally owned by the members, 1 share per member and each member is able to vote on the organization’s activities. The members elect a board of directors who have fiduciary responsibility for the organization. The credit union is able to offer lower cost financial services for the membership. Any profits are either distributed back to the members as dividends or used to support additional growth.
DB: So what will ANFCU mean specifically for the non-profit sector?
Pamela Davis: The credit union will provide a more efficient banking model for the sector, as it is typically more difficult for non-profit organizations to secure credit due to a lack of understanding of how these groups function. ANFCU will also seek to raise awareness about our sector and how our financial models function.
DB: I’m sure lots of folks will be excited to hear that. So what’s the timeline for the credit union’s development?
PD: By the end of 2013, we expect to have ANFCU up and running and serving members.
DB: Great! In the meantime, how can YNPN members and their employers support this effort?
CW: YNPN members can complete this survey that is the next step in the process to make the credit union a reality.
PD: We’re also looking for volunteers who have skills in data analysis and communications. Additionally, we are in the process of raising $10.5 million in seed funding and are always interested in making connections with prospective funders.
DB: Those sound like really great opportunities for input and engagement. Anything else YNPN members know about this effort?
CW: We see the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group as a successful model that proves the viability of non-profit groups creating their own financial institutions. Pamela has been a big part of NIA Group’s success over the last 23 years, so it is great to have her taking part in the ANFCU project.
PD: ANFCU will provide the means for the non-profit sector to support itself in a substantive and strategic way by leveraging our cumulative financial resources.
YNPN is proud to support the ongoing effort to create a federal credit union specifically for the non-profit sector, the American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union (ANFCU). For more information on this effort, click here and feel free to leave any comments or questions for Charlie or Pamela in the section below. They’d love to hear from you!
YNPN is partnering with Wiley and Josey Bass to provide a discount on several nonprofit management publications and resources! We're grateful for the opportunity to share this with YNPN members across the country.
Here are just a few titles you may be interested in:
What makes great nonprofits great? In the original book, authors Crutchfield and McLeod Grant employed a rigorous research methodology derived from for-profit books like Built to Last. They studied 12 nonprofits that have achieved extraordinary levels of impact—from Habitat for Humanity to the Heritage Foundation—and distilled six counterintuitive practices that these organizations use to change the world.
“Most nonprofits struggle to find a long-term sustainable business model that will enable them to deliver impact on their mission…This book offers practical, concrete steps you can take to develop your own unique path to sustainability without compromising your mission.” —Heather McLeod Grant, consultant, Monitor Institute, and author, Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits
Experience the yellow wristband campaign from the beginning and learn how to position your nonprofit for success.
Passionate and inspiring, Banding Together for a Cause will help you identify ways to generate funds for your programs and missions through valuable and meaningful partnerships. In it, author Rachel Armbruster dissects the LIVESTRONG campaign, from timing and brand, to partners and visionary thinking.
This book provides nonprofit professionals with the conceptual frameworks, practical knowledge, and concise guidance needed to succeed in the social sector. Designed as a handbook, the book is filled with sage advice and insights from a variety of trusted experts that can help nonprofit professionals prepare to achieve their organizational and personal goals, develop a better understanding of what they need to do to lead, support, and grow an effective organization.
This down-to-earth book shows how to hack through the bewildering jungle of marketing options and miles-long to-do lists to clear a marketing path that’s right for your organization, no matter how understaffed or underfunded. You’ll see how to shape a marketing program that starts from where you are now and grows with your organization, using smart and savvy communications techniques, both offline and online. Combining big-picture management and strategic decision-making with reader-friendly tips for implementing a marketing program day in and day out, this book provides a simple yet powerful framework for building support for your organization’s mission and programs.
This groundbreaking book shows nonprofits a new way of operating in our increasingly connected world: a networked approach enabled by social technologies, where connections are leveraged to increase impact in effective ways that drive change for the betterment of our society and planet
Order before May 31, 2012, when you use PROMO CODE YNPN5 at checkout on www.wiley.com, we’ll take 50% off your entire order.
There are many resources available for young nonprofit professionals interested in learning more about the nonprofit sector. Many of these resources are provided by national organizations that work to improve the nonprofit sector through disseminating information about specific areas of the sector, whether that be finance, fundraising, governance, etc. Please review the Sector Resources page for a listing of popular organizations that provide valuable information for many different types of nonprofit organizations.
Sharing and learning from best practices can help the YNPN network grow and thrive.
The following sample documents have been provided courtesy of YNPN chapters, to search by category, see the sidebar. These documents are meant to serve as a reference and provide chapters with samples and ideas. Please note that each YNPN chapter is different and therefore many of these documents will also vary accordingly.
If you are interested in contributing a best practice of your own, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.