As you have likely witnessed, the loss of revenue, the increase of unexpected expenses, and for some the decreased value of endowments have left many nonprofits scrambling to make payroll. Unfortunately, the options to correct the financial challenges often include cutting salaries, furloughing staff, and laying off staff members. Aspen Leadership Group is one of the few search firms in the country offering free career counseling and we have leaned into this work over the last 9 weeks. Today’s Coach’s Corner brings you my best insight and perspectives from experience and what I have heard from other professionals. Here are the 11 tips to prepare for your next job search:


  1. Give yourself grace. Most of us enter the nonprofit sector to make a difference and to help others. The lines between work and our life’s purpose can sometimes blur together. If you need to make a change, give yourself permission to grieve the loss.
  2. Imagine new possibilities. A pause in your career might allow you to reflect. What did you enjoy most about your previous role? What do you want to let go of in your next role? Take this time to evaluate what gives you energy AND ways you can benefit an organization. The pandemic will have an enduring impact on advancement and nonprofits. What strengths would you bring forward? What skills could you enhance? During a transition period, how will you grow personally to re-enter the workforce?
  3. Move on. If your job is eliminated, grieving is an important part of the process. Let go of any lingering angst about your situation and put all your energy into moving forward. If you don’t, it will show up in how you interview. When that is really hard to do, lean on your friends and network to help you.
  4. Grit will be required for this transitional period. Career changes are rarely easy, especially when it might not be your choice. It is unsettling to be in a space of letting go of the known past and embracing the unknown future. The search process will likely take longer in these uncertain times and will require perseverance and grit. Be prepared for a marathon and not a sprint.
  5. Reach out to your personal network. This includes family, friends, former colleagues, people you admire, and anyone who brings positive energy to you. When I was previously let go, it lifted me up and let me know that many others had been through something similar. It helped me navigate the emotional aspects of this experience through a common lens and helped me not feel alone in the process. Reaching out was the most important lesson I learned from this experience. Remember, people want to help, especially in a crisis situation.
  6. Find mentors and trusted advisors. No matter how experienced you are, you will face challenges in a new role. Reach out to mentors and coaches who can provide you candid and valuable feedback. These individuals may be inside or outside of your organization. Work with a mentor, professional friend, and your network to ask for guidance and support in thinking about what options might be open to you.
  7. Extend your network. While individuals close to you might be able to offer emotional support and perspective, ask your network to introduce you to new connections. Also, use LinkedIn and any connections you might have with CASE, AFP, AHP, APRA, AADO, Hispanics in Philanthropy, APIP, and ComNet. Your goal is to extend your network out as far and as wide as possible. Set a goal of making 5-10 new connections a week.
  8. Keep an open mind. As the job market becomes more competitive, you might consider roles outside of your “dream job.” Titles and salaries might not matter as much as who your boss is and the culture of the organization. Also, look for a match on your values and their interest in your continued growth.
  9. Take inventory of your accomplishments. Now is NOT the time to send out hundreds of resumes and applications for random opportunities. The job market is competitive, and you want to present yourself in the best way that demonstrates your focus and desire for “this specific role or organization. Take the time to update your resume, create a list of your achievements, and be prepared to create customized resumes and cover letters.
  10. Update your materials. First impressions matter. Take the time to update your resume, LinkedIn profile, and bio. To activate your network towards action, you might have less than 10 seconds to make a first impression. Not sure where to start? Aspen Leadership Group has many resources for you to tap into, including resources specific to applying in the time of Covid-19 and economic uncertainty.
  11. Practice interviewing. As you prepare for your interviews, take time to create responses to the most likely questions you will be asked. There is no mystery around what they will ask (why do want this role, how do your skills fit, what kind of manager are you, where have you had success, how would former colleagues describe you, what makes you a successful fundraiser, what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc.) so have answers and examples of your work that align with the most likely questions. Since most interviews will occur remotely, make sure you have proper lighting, a nice background, and dress appropriately.

Having lived through two professional transitions in my career, it was a lot easier to write this article than to live through the transitions. Aspen Leadership Group is here to support you; please message us if you could use guidance. Visit our For Candidates page to learn more about our candidate-centered approach to recruitment, and explore our Covid-19 resource page for additional materials to help you in your job search.

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