There is a strategy for getting paid well – even in the nonprofit sector. Look at the following scenarios and determine which individual is more likely to find a job that combines service (mission) with a decent paycheck:
Door #1: Individual who specialized in an obscure research area related to ocean acidification
Door #2: Individual who majored in social work, spent two years in Peace Corps, has an MBA
Door #3: Individual who speaks three languages, has a degree in archaeology, likes dirt, hates people
If you were a hiring official of a non-profit, let’s call it Sarah’s House, for women victims of domestic violence, which one of the candidates provided above would you hire and why?
Let's knock on these doors and figure out which one of our candidates has the most likely opportunity to be hired by Sarah’s House.
If you picked Door #1, you would probably be wrong. Why? Well, other than the fact that we should all care about the environment, does ocean acidification have anything at all to do with domestic violence? NO.
If you picked Door #3, you were more right than Door #1 and that candidate just might get a phone screen, if not an actual interview. Why? The person speaks three languages (which are two more than most of us) and it is quite possible that Sarah’s House is the kind of place that takes in women from different backgrounds where English is the second language. So why not scoop this candidate up? Well, the fact that s/he likes dirt more than people is a hugely big red flag. No matter how fluent s/he is in Klingon, Romulan, or Martian is it likely they will do well in an environment loaded with people who are in a fragile, emotional state? NOT LIKELY.
If you picked Door #2, BINGO! You were right. Why? What are the skill sets a hiring manager for Sarah’s House would see? First, the individual has an academic background in managing human problems (social work); they put action to theory by working in Peace Corps (whose organizing principles are to help disadvantaged and vulnerable populations around the world); and an MBA provides the individual with an understanding of how to manage resources (human and financial).
So, what does strategy provide? It provides the 3 Cs: Context, concept, and connection. Context (the specific position); Concept (the mission of the potential organization); and Connection (the hiring official).
One thing to always remember. Hiring officials are people who are ready to stop interviewing the second they meet the right candidate. Make their jobs easier by applying for jobs that meet their requirements AND your personality. To use the Sarah's House example, if you don’t like people or people with problems (which is usually the same thing), don’t apply for people-oriented (customer service, client-based) positions.
Know the job. But most importantly, like Shakespeare said, KNOW YOURSELF.