In today’s market, non-profits are flooded with resumes for every posted position. The Chronicle of Philanthropy held an on-line chat today entitled “Recruiting New Employees in a Flooded Market” addressing some of the issues facing both employers and job seekers. Click on this post’s title to see the entire transcript. Highlights include:

Transition from For-Profit to Non-Profit

Someone switching mid-career from for-profit to non-profit was told “whom ever decides to hire you will be taking a leap of faith. Having someone make inroads for you so that you’re being seen as a trusted, known entity will help. And it’s a numbers game out there right now, so keep plugging away and best of luck on your search!”

Effective strategies for addressing this reality are:

  1. Preparing a resume and cover letter that specify and market your skills and abilities as applicable and transferable from one sector to another;
  2. Networking, networking, networking (see all my posts on that topic by searching this blog); and,
  3. Volunteering at any non-profit in whose work you believe, in any function that will a) help you learn a new skill; b) give you exposure and experience to how a non-profit organization actually operates; and/or c) provides opportunities to interact with donors, Board members, and people from other non-profit organizations.

The third strategy – volunteering – is critical, because most for-profit people are shocked when they arrive at a non-profit to discover that they lack access to certain resources and support. Non-profit leaders and HR people are more savvy today, since for-profit people have been looking for non-profit since the 1987 market crash. They know that a for-profit person who has volunteered at a non-profit has the best chance of succeeding in regular employment.

Volunteering is a great way to see if you actually want to work for a non-profit. I’ve had people decide that they’ll take their chances in the for-profit marketplace because they simply need or want to make more money, and want some of the perks that often come with for-profit jobs (cafeterias, car service late at night, IT department, messenger service, plentiful supplies, etc.).

Finally, volunteering is a wonderful way to develop a new “natural network” of people who can keep you in mind when they hear of job openings, and who can serve as references.

Is Anyone Hiring?

Panelists say “yes” with the qualification that most “are looking to fill mission-critical positions that are vacant due to attrition.

There always will be positions open because someone moves away, retires, switches jobs, has a child, has a family leave, becomes disabled – all the usual things. Today (February 11, 2009) www.idealist.comhas about 4500 non-profit job postings – down from roughly 12-15,000 a year ago. So the market definitely is tighter. Reviewing the postings in NYC, roughly 1/3 are managerial or professional and the rest are entry-level or junior.

If you must get a job quickly, think about taking a pay cut or a temporary job. If you get your foot in the door, you will be in better position for an increase or full-time hire when the economy improves.

I anticipate the non-profit job market to continue being very tight for the next four to six months as non-profits adjust to the 20-40% shrinkage in foundation and corporate giving stemming from the drop in the stock market. Giving is pegged to year-end portfolio value, and so there is just less to give out this year. The reduced level of giving will extend for at least three years, as institutional giving rates are based on a three year average portfolio value.

However, in the fall, the major adjustment will be over and the non-profit job market will get back some of its elasticity. This means that people will stop being afraid to look for work, and there will be some moving around. There won’t be a lot of NEW jobs created, but there will be a backlog of positions opening through attrition that must be filled.

General Good Advice

One of the panelists said this: The best predictor of the future is the past, so know your numbers, accomplishments and performance highlights extremely well. Ask yourself in each job that I’ve had, what have I done to MAKE MONEY, SAVE MONEY, or where have I implemented or changed a PROCESS THAT IMPACTED THE BOTTOM-LINE? Especially in these tough economic times, being able to show your value to an organization based on past performance is key.

Everyone preparing a resume can use this advice. People who want to stand out in a huge pile of resumes will focus on what RESULTS they have delivered, using numbers and percentages and impact statements. When hiring managers are deluged with resumes, the first ones to go in the “no” pile are those with generalities and descriptions of what someone did. The ones that will be reviewed are those that give concrete information about the applicant’s past performance.