11 Things You Need to Know When Looking for a New Job

The high-rate of nonprofit staff turnover has been a topic of discussion for decades. Most recently, a Harris Poll study conducted for The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals has fueled the conversation. Harris found that more than half of the fundraising professionals in Canada and the USA that were surveyed say they plan to leave their job within the next two years.

Over the years, much has been written about what it will take to reduce the turnover rate. I even wrote about this in August. Now, I want to look at the issue another way. While it’s important to retain talented staff, we need to acknowledge that staff turnover is a fact of life. Even if the sector manages to do a more effective job retaining employees, the reality is that, eventually, staff will leave their position. You will leave your position.

That got me thinking about what you need to know when the time comes to hunt for a new job. I also thought about what professional recruiters need to know, from a candidate’s perspective, when representing a nonprofit client.

Because I’ve been self-employed since 1982, I didn’t feel quite qualified to write on the subject from a job candidate’s perspective. So, I invited Dan Hanley to share several tips based on his own job searches over the years as well as his encounters with executive recruiters. Dan is CEO and Lead Consultant with Altrui Consulting.

I thank Dan for kindly sharing six tips to keep in mind when looking for a new position as well as five things you should definitely avoid doing. In addition, he shares five suggestions for nonprofits who work with a professional recruiter.

Checkout Dan’s tips and, then, please share your own:


If the statistics I read are correct, more than half of nonprofit fundraisers are either looking for a new job or will be soon. Although I am troubled by this, as you might be, I am writing this post based on my experiences with looking for a job and the dozens of peers who are currently looking for their next nonprofit fundraising position.

Back in 2013, I was laid off. I had seen it coming and had a week to prepare before I was called into my boss’s office. My hunch was correct, and one morning I was told even though I was such an awesome guy, I was being laid off. I was handed a check and given the day to pack up and go.

I was grateful that I had already begun to prepare for this. I walked back to my office, called my husband, pulled up the state unemployment website and applied for unemployment. I then logged onto Facebook and told all of my friends and family that I had been laid off and had time for breakfast, lunch, or coffee with them, and that since I was no longer employed they would need to pay.

By the end of the day, I had 68 invitations to breakfast, lunch, or coffee.

Regardless of the reason you are searching for a job, the first thing to know is that you have a lot of support. Most likely, more than you know in the moment. You have your family, friends, former colleagues, peers who you know from work or through social media, etc. Remember this. You are not alone.

I have heard from people smarter than me that the best time to look for a job is when one has a job. Depending on your personal situation, this may or may not be true. The following six suggestions are for anyone looking for their next opportunity, no matter their personal situation:

  • Revisit your resume. Then ask a peer to do the same for you.
  • Sign up for any job email blasts from local nonprofits, national job search sites, and anyone else who sends out such lists.
  • Let everyone know you are looking for a job. Let them know what you envision as your next adventure. For social media platforms, like LinkedIn, you can even make it so recruiters know you are looking and are open to being approached by them.
  • If unemployed, get dressed for work every day and dive into your search. I found it invigorating to be in a dress shirt and slacks at 6:30 am while looking for any new job postings.
  • Share with others, even if it’s just one other, how you are honestly doing and feeling.
  • Be just as active on social media as you were while employed. If you were not active before, become active.

To go with the list of items I suggest you do when in a job search, here are five things I suggest you not do:

  • Do not sit at home all day and watch reruns.
  • Do not feel sorry for yourself (easier said than done some days, I know).
  • Do not sell yourself short.
  • Do not rush through application processes.
  • Do not write a cover letter and then send it. Instead, edit it again and again, and apply the next day after one more edit.

I mentioned recruiters above. I have had an amazing experience with a recruiter during the process for my most recent position. They were amazing. By that I mean professional, responsive, empathetic, very smart, and kind. As with you, my expectations for a recruiter are high.

Unfortunately, I often hear negative stories and experiences about recruiters. What I would like to share, especially for nonprofits, is that when you hire a recruiter, that recruiter is your nonprofit to candidates.

Nonprofits need to be super cautious when working with recruiters, demanding excellence along with total respect for the candidates. I have recently heard a couple of recruiter horror stories, and all I could think about were the implications for the nonprofit.

If your nonprofit engages a professional search firm, here are five suggestions for your recruiter:

  • Have an immediate email response letting the candidate know their resume was received.
  • Give the candidate a timeline, if possible.
  • If an interview is setup, be timely, and be prepared.
  • Treat the candidate as a human being.
  • And again, remember, you are representing a nonprofit that is changing the world and wants a positive public image. Exude as much passion as possible for the nonprofit’s mission.

Every day I feel grateful to be part of the nonprofit fundraising world. Our community is filled with caring and compassionate people, and you know many of them. Ask them for help. They will say yes.


That’s what Dan Hanley and Michael Rosen say… What do you say?

2 Comments to “11 Things You Need to Know When Looking for a New Job”

  1. Michael and Dan,

    Enjoyed finally reading this post. I have done my share of applying for development positions over the years, as Michael knows, and I have come across a few really good HR departments in some nonprofits, but the majority have left a bad taste in my mouth after dealing with them. HR directors need to read those five suggestions as much as any recruiting agency.

    What many of those organizations who employ poor HR tactics and procedures don’t realize is that they only hurt their organizations, just like development departments that don’t follow up with their donors.

    Thanks again for the reminders.

    • Richard, thank you for sharing your experience with HR departments. Sadly, the HR department can stand between the organization and a great hire. They can also alienate people and, due to word of mouth, a community. It’s not only an HR issue but an organizational culture issue. Organizations need to realize that every staff member is a representative of the organization and, at least in part, is the face of the organization. They need to behave accordingly.

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