It’s hard finding a job in social impact and sustainability. It’s even harder when you’re trying to do it in the midst of a global pandemic.
Last week, Reconsidered founder Jessica Marati Radparvar and Reconsidered Jobs manager and career coach Caroline Ouwerkerk hosted a virtual coffee break to discuss the challenges of job-hunting during this particularly unique point in time. More than 125 Reconsidered community members joined us for an honest conversation on what comes next.
Here are a few of the tips and insights we shared:
Use this time to get clear on what you want.
A tempting thing to do in the midst of a global crisis is to send out a flurry of applications to any job that looks remotely interesting. Instead, take this time to clarify your “career thesis statement” — a summary of what skills, interests and strengths you want to leverage in your ideal job. Although you may not be able to find a job that meets all of your specs immediately, you’ll at least be able to make a more informed choice when you understand what trade-offs you’re making. If you want to take this further, consider starting a list of your non-work dreams and goals too — what else do you want to make time for in your life? If you’re seeking a framework for this exercise, we recommend picking up the book Designing Your Life, which applies theories from product design to the task of lifestyle design.
Redefine what’s important to you.
Truth is, your dream job may be harder to find right now. So consider what is most important to you for your next role. Perhaps you want to prioritize stability, the opportunity to transition to a job that’s a closer (if not perfect) match for your career goals or even a job that just pays the bills so you have the flexibility to work on a side project. Where previously you may have put a high value on salary or company prestige, now is the time to consider the intangible benefits an opportunity might offer.
Invest in your personal brand.
With many people spending even more time online, take this opportunity to make sure your digital presence is a sparkling reflection of who you are and what you want to share. If you don’t yet have a personal website, consider creating one (services like Squarespace, Mailchimp and Wix make it super easy). Make sure you’re maximizing every inch of your LinkedIn profile — great headshot, standout personal summary, impressive work details and more than 500 connections. Consider asking a friend to look over your materials and tell you what three words come to mind — make sure those match what you’re going for (and then return the favor!).
Build meaningful connections by being of service.
Now, more than ever, is the time to invest in your community. That might mean seeking new connections, but it doesn’t have to. Look around your existing network and find ways to add value. Have a friend working on a cool project? Help spread the word. Connect people with others you know who could help them. Know someone job hunting? Offer to review their materials or be on the lookout for postings. Focus on how you can support your network — it will pay dividends in the long run.
When applying, focus on the value you can provide for the company.
Your cover letter is your big opportunity to bring your experience to life. You want it to paint your experience in a good light, but you also want to emphasize how your impressive background will translate to serving the company’s goals. Remember that the person reading your materials is trying to solve a problem — that’s why they’re looking to hire. How does what you bring to the table help them address that problem? Be sure it’s very clear how your experience translates to the responsibilities of the role.
Don’t wait for permission — just start building.
While hiring has slowed in recent weeks, we don’t yet know how the coronavirus crisis will affect hiring practices in the long-term. One thing we do know — you don’t need to wait to land a job in social impact in order to have a social impact. Right now, a lot is needed to get us through this crisis, not to mention other crises that have been sidelined. Act on your ideas for making things better, or find projects that will stretch you to learn new skills that might be helpful for a future position. You can also consider finding ways to build out your portfolio through contract or freelance work, whether paid or pro bono. The bottom line? Don’t wait for permission — start where you are, with what you’ve got. For inspiration and resources, we like the content on Side Hustle School.
Know that it will get better.
This crisis won’t last forever, but the adaptability and resiliency that you’ll learn during this period will be invaluable throughout your career. Focus your efforts now on what is in your control and you’ll be in a much better position once the world starts re-opening.
By Caroline Ouwerkerk and Jessica Marati Radparvar
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Through our industry-recognized jobs board, newsletter and online community, Reconsidered serves our community of colleagues working in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and social impact. We also help leading companies and organizations build impactful social impact strategies, communications and community around their work. Learn more about us here.