Wednesday, October 29, 2008

how can you be courageous today?

In our lives, we have two or three opportunities to be a hero, but almost every day, we have the opportunity not to be a coward.

- Spanish proverb

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Advice for a recent Smith College grad

Having helped lots of people get jobs in the non-profit sector, I've found it's important to identify what you're looking for (I use a "must have" list) as well as what your "core value proposition" is, to use a marketing term. When you know what you want to do and what you have to offer to an employer, it's easier to sort through the various postings. You can read more about the "must have" list; resume building to highlight your distinct talents, skills and experience; and cover letters elsewhere in this blog.

As far as where to look, has a lot of listings; be aware that you'll get different results when you put in different search criteria. To cast the widest net, just say "NY" for state and city, and hit "enter." There will be a lot of listings, but just slog through. Philanthropy News Digest ( also has job listings. I have a more complete list of sites at my blog

Obviously, networking is the most effective way to find a job, and you are starting with a great source - the Smith group on LinkedIn. If there are specific organizations you've targeted, see if you can find a Smithie working there. When I was at City Harvest, I often met with recent Smith grads to help them on their way and I think you'll find a lot of receptivity. Again, it will help if you know fairly specifically what you want to do and what you have to offer. It makes it easier for someone to respond affirmatively.

Another hint: ask for 20 minutes of someone's time. It's hard for anyone to say no to 20 minutes. Seeing someone in person is preferable, but take telephone help if that's all you can get. The most successful networking meeting results in you getting at least one additional person to whom you can talk, and permission to use the person's name when you make the contact.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What if you don't feel enthusiastic about a prospective employer?

When looking at job openings, I think it's a good idea to check out the organization's web site to get a better idea of its mission, values, activities and impact. There's no better way of finding out whether the organization will be the right fit for you and whether you'll be a good to great fit for it.

* If you find there is great synergy between your values and those of the organization, by all means apply.

* If you don't admire the organization or think you wouldn't be a good fit, then it's probably better not to apply.

* If there's a question in your mind, I recommend taking the next step of applying to find more information.

Learning about the organization sets you up to write an effective cover letter. I recommend being enthusiastic about the company in your cover letter. Employers want to hire someone who wants to work for them. If it's a toss-up between two people with relatively equal qualifications, the employer normally will interview and select the person who convinces them that s/he wants to be part of the company. Thus, I believe it's usually better to err on the side of flattery for an organization and saying you think you're a good, great or even perfect fit.

In my humble opinion (IMHO), it's OK to say you admire an organization even if you don't think it's perfect. You can still think there are places you think they could improve. Usually we hope to make an impact on our place of work, and I'd expect you to see things that you could do, contributions you could make, improvements awaiting your presence.

Of course, you can make clear in your cover letter that you have a point of view based on experience. The question is whether your point of view complements or contradicts the prospective employer's focus.

* If your values and views complement the employer's, then move forward in hopes of gathering more information about the employer. Send in your resume with a cover letter that emphasizes your positive feelings about the company. Hopefully, you'll be selected for an interview. If not, then it wasn't meant to be.

* If your values and views contradict the employer's, then it's unlikely you'll be happy there. Move on to apply for other jobs with which you have more congruence.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Setting and Achieving Goals

Often I hear and ask myself questions like "why am I not reaching my goals?" and "I keep trying, but I'm not succeeding - why?"

I've found that it's beneficial to focus on one goal instead of several. Work toward that one goal.

First, of course, we need to settle on that one goal. Choosing sometimes seems impossible.

My experience is that when I focus on one goal, I start to experience success in that area. That success provides more motivation for me to keep working at that one goal. Eventually, this success feeds my motivation and energy to tackle another goal.

Selecting the one goal can be difficult. I try to determine what's most important to me RIGHT NOW.

* Am I worried about money, afraid I won't be able to pay my bills or retire in the future? Then the one goal is to achieve financial stability.

* Am I overweight and worried about my health because of it? Am I afraid I'll get diabetes or have a heart attack or stroke sometime in the future? Then my one goal is to release my extra weight, to let it go!

* Do I hate going to work? Am I unhappy in my job, with the organizational culture, my boss and co-workers, the pay, or all of the above? Then my goal is to become happy in my work. That may mean looking for another job, adjusting my attitude, finding ways to contribute more or differently, or detaching emotionally.

Essentially, I have enough information already about the topics important to me. And if I don't, I can get more. So it's possible for me to set and reach goals. If I need more information as I go along, I can set aside some time to learn more.

What's important is to just take action - the next step. I will learn from my experiences from doing.