Thinking of changing jobs? Things to consider and questions to ask
Updated: Jul 28
The pandemic has been a life-changing experience for all of us. It gave everyone who wasn’t confronting the disaster personally or providing critical assistance to others, time to reflect about our lives.
I’ve read countless articles – you probably have too – about people who chose to retire early, vowed to spend more time with their kids, adopted pets, got more politically engaged, or otherwise reflected on how to live a life full of meaning and purpose.
Much of that soul searching was about jobs and careers.
People asked themselves,
What kind of job can I get that makes better use of my skills?
Where can I work that aligns more closely with my values?
How can I find a way out of my toxic/unsatisfying workplace?
Now that it seems the darkest days are behind us, folks are emerging like groundhogs blinking into the sunlight, trying to figure out how to make their Covid vows a reality.
If you haven’t read the headlines, all types of organizations are hiring.
Since my specialty is executive search for nonprofits, I’ll offer a short roadmap of things to think about as you ponder your next work adventure.
1. Do some careful thinking about the size of organization that suits you best.
This may seem like a funny place to start, but the size of the organization is a big driver of how it functions. Throughout my career I’ve worked for all kinds of nonprofits, including one that employed more than a thousand people and several others that had fewer than 10 staff.
There are pluses and minuses to working in differently-sized organizations. Larger organization tend to have better benefits, administrative support, good name recognition, and deeper pockets for expenses like conferences and professional development. They also have more bureaucracy, rules, layers of decision-making, and personalities to navigate.
Smaller organizations tend to be much more flexible, and innovative. They generally have an all-hands-on-deck culture (which some people like) but aren’t as well-heeled so staff can be stretched thin.
Size matters my friend, which is why it is at the top of my list.
2. Consider the type of organizational culture that makes you happiest.
I’ve written about Edgar Schein in previous blogs who is a great guru of organizational culture. Culture is important because it represents the shared norms of how people operate within an organization.
Some organizations are committed to consensus-driven decision-making which can work well if there is a high degree of common-vision and trust among the staff. It can also lead to delayed action with teams spinning their wheels. Other nonprofits encourage a high-degree of autonomous decision-making which can allow for quick action when it’s needed. It can also lead to too little input on important decisions.
In this day and age of hybrid work environments where we’re sometimes home and sometimes in the office, how do decisions get made?
During the interview process, be sure to ask different kinds of questions about the organization’s culture to find out how it works.
3. Do research on any organization you think you might want to work for.
This is so obvious and so easy to do, yet I find that very few people take a deep dive into a nonprofit before they submit their resume. Given the information superhighway, this type of research can’t be easier!
You’ll not only want to see what kind of work the nonprofit is doing by reading their website and annual reports, you’ll also want to take a close look at who is on the staff and Board. How long have these folks been involved with the organization? What are their backgrounds/credentials?
If it’s a mid-to-small sized organization, you’ll want to get an idea of how fiscally stable they are by reading their financial statements. If those aren’t posted on the website, you can go to Guidestar.org to look up their Form 990 filings for the past several years.
Finally, have they been in the news? Do they have a Twitter feed? Who supports them?
When you do this kind of treasure hunt the added bonus is that you may stumble across someone you know who is connected to the group and can give you more insider information about them.
An added bonus is that you’ll be super prepared for an interview.
Searching for a new job, or thinking about changing careers is like buying a pair of jeans. If you can find the right style and fit, you’ll be happy for a long time.
Pat Libby is a nonprofit consultant and author of The Lobbying Strategy Handbook: 10 Steps to Advancing Any Cause Effectively, Oxford University Press. She has served as an academic, senior executive, board member, and consultant to innumerable nonprofit organizations and foundations for more than three decades.
Get in touch with questions or to get more information!