Welcome to today’s guest blogger, Valerie Lambert. Valerie is an award-winning fundraiser and blogs at Bilou Enterprises on topics related to Annual Giving and career counseling.
Most of us in the nonprofit world have extensive and varied expertise as, due to limited resources, we often do the work of two or more people. For example, you might have experience managing special events, writing press releases, recruiting and training volunteers and leading committee meetings among other responsibilities.
On the surface, it’s good to be multi-talented, but when facing a potential employer, it’s crucial to work on branding yourself as you would any other product or service. This means fine tuning, rather than painting a picture with broad strokes.
It’s essential that you decide which path you want to pursue and emphasize the most relevan qualities and successes. If you list a dozen or more skills on your resume summary, not only will it undermine the ones you wish to highlight, but the list is likely to make your very real accomplishments seem less believable. In addition, hiring managers have little time to read anything lengthy and will generally question your ability to communicate in an effective and succinct fashion.
As a nonprofit communicator, your most important skill set is to ensure your audience (the hirer or reviewer in this case) digests what you have to say. Make it easy for that to happen. For example, you might have experience managing special events, writing press releases, recruiting and training volunteers and leading committee meetings prior to the event, among other talents behind the scenes, in the office, on the computer, etc. If you are primarily interested in writing press releases and dealing directly with the media, then your time spent recruiting people and attending committee meetings is less relevant. Mention that expertise in a cover letter or during an interview only if it’s a core part of that position.
Some other dos and don’ts to build your personal brand in the job market via social media channels:
- Use keywords when writing your LinkedIn summary, for SEO optimization
- Describe your positions on your resume in terms of what you accomplished, not what your assignment was
- Give and receive recommendations, but make certain that they are genuine and worthwhile. It detracts from the value of your brand when you recommend someone who’s below par
- Change your generic “invitation to connect” message to something more personal when adding new contacts. (Why have you selected this person? You wouldn’t send a form letter from your nonprofit.)
- Expand your networking beyond online into the face-to-face realm and join a professional society. Depending on your preferred niche, this might be the DMA, PRSA, AFP, NTEN, CASE, AHP, APRA or other organization, but getting to know the members will help you extend your reach and grow past your job or organization.
- Join – and actively participate in – several LinkedIn groups related to your specific interests. This means posting questions and comments on a regular basis about what’s happening in your field.
- List every job you’ve ever had on your LinkedIn profile if you’ve been working for 20+ years. The last dozen years is plenty.
- View social networking as a head-counting “contest” – instead work for quality vs. quantity and strive to make real connections
- Assume that what you post can’t – and won’t – be seen by others. Regardless of your privacy settings, take care how you present yourself on Facebook and other social media channels. Be professional and tactful online at all times. Remember – you’re representing your brand whenever and wherever you post.
Have any recommendations to add, based on your own experience in seeking a job or internship in nonprofit communications? Please share them here.