As more charities are struggling financially, more fundraisers are having to look for a new job when they really hadn’t planned to. You may feel more pressure to land a job than you normally would. How do you succeed in the job market in these turbulent times?
So at a recent live Group Coaching for the Bright Spot Members Club, I organised a session to help fundraisers not only get the job, but also build the career that will make them happy. Our guest expert was the always-inspiring Paul Nott, who is among other things, an excellent career coach to the fundraising sector.
Our members found his advice so helpful that I was determined to share some of it with you through the podcast. The session includes tips for doing well at interview over Zoom; making your CV work for you and practical tips to help you build your dream career, in a way that was not possible for previous generations.
If you want to share this episode with your friends and contacts because you think it will be helpful at this difficult time, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! And Paul and I would love to hear what you think. We are both on Linked In and on twitter Paul is @paulconsulting and I am @woods_rob.
You may also like episode Episode 9 – How to create a career that makes your heart sing, with Liz Tait
If you’d like to find out more about all the live coaching and other resources we provide through our training and inspiration site for fundraisers, the Bright Spot Members Club, go to www.brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join.
‘Now more than ever, it’s worth taking the time to really work out what your sweet spot is career-wise, and ways you can get there… and then start putting those things in place’
Transcript of Episode
Hey there, brave fundraisers. Welcome to episode 43 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. My name is Rob Woods, and this is the show for anyone who works in fundraising and who wants ideas for how to raise more money, really enjoy their job and make a bigger difference, even during the pandemic.
And in today’s episode, as more and more charities are struggling financially, and either you or your friends find that you may need to look for a new job when you really hadn’t planned to, I wanted to create an episode with some advice to help. You may know that every week in our Bright Spot Members Club, we do a live group coaching call on different fundraising topics.
Well, last week our topic was a bit different. We brought in the always inspiring Paul Nott to answer member’s questions and give advice about job hunting, savings and designing your career. Paul is not only a highly respected recruitment expert serving the charity sector, he has for years also provided career coaching to our sector. So what you’re about to hear is a section taken from the group coaching session that Paul and I recently provided to the fundraisers in our Bright Spot Club.
Just going to start off, Paul, if you had two or three key tips for a fundraiser or someone who works in a charity right now, and they are thinking they may need to enter the job hunt soon, or they’ve been forced into a position where they need to, as a starting point, what would those two or three tips be?
Thanks, Rob. Hi everyone. I think really thematically, a lot of this is going to come down to not panicking more than anything. I’ve seen so many people recently completely understandably, really just get into quite a mode of panic because everybody’s heard about how many people are applying for every role and how much competition there is. But actually, although there are more people looking out there, the number of people who are shortlist-able going for any role isn’t necessarily that different. So it’s very easy if you panic to end up going from the frying pan to the fire and ending up in a role that’s not quite right for you.
It’s really about making sure that you don’t just look at playing the numbers game and try and fire out your CV to as many jobs as possible because you just won’t get shortlisted for any of them. It’s about really whittling down into what jobs interest you the most, and then really nailing those applications to make sure that you’re the one that gets invited for interview. That’s the first tip.
And then it comes onto when you do get to interview, again, rather than almost getting into this submissive mode of thinking, “Well, my only role here is to try and get this job.” To actually feel confident enough to still ask the questions that you need to, to really work out if the job’s right for you because even if it is harder than it may have been to get a job, if you end up getting one that isn’t right and then feel that you don’t want to be there longer than a few months, then it doesn’t necessarily make your search harder because everyone understands that you can make a mistake every now and again, but emotionally I find it puts you in a much harder place to then move onto the next role. So it is about making sure that you really ask those questions you need to.
And related to those two, again, it’s just coming down to quality and making sure that when you are putting your applications over, as well as making sure that your CV is good and everything else, just to make sure that you are standing out by doing an application that matches the criteria of the role you’re going for, rather than just saying, “I’ve written a great CV, I’ve got this amazing cover letter. I’m just going to put those forward for every role.” That making sure you read through the application instructions and follow them to the letter because it’s very easy for you to go into the no pile, however good your experience is, just because you’ve not done it how that particular organization asked for it. That’s top three headlines, really.
Thank you very much, Paul, for getting us started. And on that last one, I know how tempting it is to spend hours and hours making your CV look ever more beautiful and spend lots of time on that potentially, because we can fear what it says about us if we haven’t done that. But when we last spoke, you said to me, actually, paradoxically, there’s a couple of reasons why that’s unhelpful. And one of them was just to do with formatting.
Yeah, quite often I’ve seen, with my recruitment hat on, a CV covered in text boxes or something like that is always a nightmare because I’ve seen lots of times when a CV goes over to an organization, usually to the HR team, or at least pre-COVID times, the HR team would print out all the CVs and then send them on to the hiring manager. And if their printer driver is out of date, it can sometimes move all those text boxes around. So your CV that looks absolutely beautiful on your home screen is suddenly missing text, has big blank gaps in it. The person actually making that first sift has no idea that you didn’t send it over like that.
So all the time you spent prettying it up actually works against you and the most successful CVs I’ve ever seen and all the feedback I’ve had from clients I’ve worked with, they’re just very simple word documents. They just have really good content, bullet pointed and are just laid out nicely. And unless you’re going for a design role or something like that, where design is really part of what you’re going for, then just a simple word document that is clear and has good, solid content is all you need.
Great. So there’s a clear top tip there to let go of the need to make it look flash, so to speak. Tying back into the main point you’ve been making so far, as I understand it, Paul, which is make it bespoke, not one beautiful CV you send to everyone, better to apply for two or three jobs that really suit you and to be as bespoke as you can in showing that you match their criteria, than having a beautiful CV that actually is all things to all people.
Yeah. And actually, much as I would love for everyone to change their CV completely for every job they go to and that would be the ideal, I guess, but realistically, no one’s going to do that, but there’re ways you can do it in terms of you can have your CV that stays static for 95% of it. Maybe that profile at the top of your CV, you tweak for the role you’re going for to reflect the language that’s in the job ad or the job spec. So it’s even just a case of what particular jargon that organization uses.
If you’re a major donor fundraiser, do they call their major donor fundraisers, high net worth individual fundraisers, key relationship managers, whatever, and just make sure that you change your language in that profile section to reflect the language they’re using. And then to that first person looking at it, you sound like them already, and you’re much more likely to make that first cut than somebody who’s kept in the jargon from your own organization in your CV.
Now, as this was part of a much longer session, I’m clearly not going to be able to fit the whole thing into a single podcast episode. But one of the key questions that our members asked was how to approach an interview when it’s happening virtually, for instance, using zoom. And here are Paul’s thoughts on that.
Zoom interviews, I think everyone’s got to really get their heads around at the moment. And I know this is going to sound odd in terms of being one of the most important things, but saying at the top of the… Well, firstly, don’t worry about having background noise or people invading, your kids invading, anything like that because everybody gets that now. And if anyone has a problem with it, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.
But in terms of the housekeeping, one of the most important things I think is to say at the top of the interview, “Just to let you know, I might be looking down and taking notes every get every now and again, hope that’s okay.” Because I find that in a face to face interview, it’s accepted that you might be looking down at notes or scribbling away, but because people feel they’re taking their gaze away from the camera, they’re much less likely to do it in Zoom, similarly with interviewers
And it stops you being able to get down notes which might be useful, or to look at your own notes you’ve made to refer back to questions they’ve asked you. But if you say it at the top, then that’s totally fine and no one has a problem with it.
In terms of the question about presenting in Zoom, firstly, everybody keeps forgetting about the beauty of presenting on Zoom, that you can have notes in front of you at all times. And even if you’ve only got a laptop without a second screen, you can happily sit in front of a white wall that you’ve covered in post-its or whatever of aid memoirs to you to not only remember your presentation, but also any questions or key selling points of yourself or anything like that. But just practice in whatever medium you’re using, because all the platforms are very different and got their own idiosyncrasies.
Find somebody else who’s not in the same household as you that you can practice with so you can check that your camera’s working fine and that your broadband can stand up to it and all those sorts of things. And just test it out a few times and ideally present to somebody who isn’t a colleague or something like that so they’re not too close to it, but they’ll see that you’ve missed key parts of information. And really just relax into it because not even interviewers like doing the remote interviews. So take a breath and understand that they’re probably quite nervous about it as well.
It reminded me, Paul, of one of the key things that was fed back to me by someone who… Actually, she’s a member of this club. She wanted some job tips a couple of months ago and I chatted to her briefly. She went away. She got the job. I asked her about what was different in this interview where she was acing it. In fact, she had got three interviews then and two job offers and she said one of the things was partly what Paul is saying, as in explaining her working. You remember when you’re being taught maths, they don’t want you to just give them the answer, they prefer if you show you’re working. Well, it seems to me that when I’m more nervous, I wouldn’t dare to tell them why I’m looking down. Whereas when I’m more confident, I just say, “Just to let you know, I’m going to be looking down. Is that all right?”
So I’m explaining, I’m sending the signal of why I’m doing certain things. And as part of your fellow members increased confidence, because my key point was, this is not you passive and them all powerful and either they like you in this beauty contest or not, this is linked to Paul’s earliest point. You have to use this interview to find out whether you really want to work for them or not. It’s absolutely two way fact-finding mission rather than just one way, how beautifully can you perform the dance they’re asking you to dance?
So with that slightly different objective going into the Zoom interviews, she also was more proactive and assertive in asking them what they were looking for when they asked her each question because her challenge three months previously, when she had a bad interview, was she got fed feed feedback, I think by the recruiter, later on that she’d given a long winded answer about something that they weren’t interested in.
So, what she and I discussed was before you answer most of the questions, if you’re at all not clear which of your three examples to give or which of your three or why they’re asking, just to check in with them and say, “Great question. Do you know, what’s occurring to me is actually I’ve got two or three different examples. One of me leading under pressure, one me leading through change and one of me leading when neither of those things was a big, big deal but there was money at stake. Which of those three are you most actually interested in when you say leadership under pressure?”
So she was checking her working and seeking help from them. This achieves two things, number one, it signals, “I’m confident enough to stand up for myself.” Number two, it’s gathering information from them so that she can quite deliberately give them the juicy bit that they want. And thirdly, it’s signalling to them, “I’m not a one trick pony with only one successful leadership story. I’ve got loads. I’m a treasure trove of being a good leader.”
It seems to me that is linked to one of the points Paul’s been making, which is just to enter into this A, seeing it on a level and you’ve got to make choices too, but B, communicate to them that your daughter might be around and she might come in, or this is why you’ve got notes, or you’re expecting a delivery today, maybe. And as soon as you’ve warned them that there might be a delivery, then you can stop worrying about whether it’ll be worthy of panic when the delivery person comes because you communicated transparently.
And just to add into that, I think having a mobile phone ready with whatever platform you’re using on the mobile phone as well so if anything does go wrong with your first tier way of using, whether it’s your laptop, then you can always use your mobile on 3G, something like that.
And probably one of the key things about doing a Zoom interview is ending it well in that we’re we used to go into a normal interview and shaking hands, saying, “Thanks very much good. It was good to meet you,” and walking out. But we all know that ending a video call can be really, really clunky. So, although I’d say this in a face-to-face interview as well, finishing it with something really upbeat, that if they have convinced you that the role is right for you, then letting them know that you’re still interested.
So finishing on, “Great to meet you.” Or, “Just to let you know, I’m really interested in the role because…” And just give them a good reason why. Then say goodbye and click the end meeting or leave meeting button that you have practiced with before so you know exactly where it is and you can hit it really quickly, so you can hit it whilst you’re still smiling, having said, thank you, rather than having your face frozen at the end going… As you’re searching around for the leave meeting button.
So just have them practice and just end it on a really high note so the last thing they have in your mind with that recency effect is you saying, “I really want this job.” And that’s enough that if they get to the end of the day and it’s against you and one other person to offer, one of you having said, “I’m definitely interested,” is often definitely enough to clinch you being the one offered against the other person who is level pegging with you.
That’s a really helpful tip about the power of that final minute and it really does chime with lots of the other behavioural economics and nudge theory about the smallest things actually can have a surprisingly big effect on the way human beings make decisions that they don’t remember that’s why they made the decision.
And that recency effect is really clear in all of the research into memory of your first two minutes and your last minute have a disproportionate effect on how people perceive you, you’ve probably heard of the halo effect, and which bit of the interview they remember, especially if they’re later going to be trying to remember their notes on all six people they saw that morning.
Hi, it’s Rob and I wanted to jump into the middle of this episode really quickly to tell you about something that I’m really proud of, which is the ways we’ve been using our Bright Spot Club to help fundraisers not only survive, but also to respond really positively to the problems and the opportunities that this year has brought.
And in particular, the fundraisers in our club have told me that having these weekly expert problem solving sessions has made a big difference to their ability to figure out how to respond to what’s going on with the pandemic. They also have access to a whole library of my best training films and downloads on lots of different fundraising and leadership topics.
So the club does provide lots of practical tactics, but I also think that one of the things that’s so vital right now isn’t just knowing what to do, it’s also your morale and the encouragement that our members get from this community, including through these weekly sessions, seems to be more important than ever right now. If you’re not yet a member, but all this sounds like it would help you succeed in your fundraising in the coming year, you can find out more at brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join. That’s brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join.
I would love to welcome you to the club and do my utmost to help you succeed in your fundraising. For now, though, back to the session. I asked Paul what trends he has seen developing recently in terms of job hunting and career planning.
I think one of the key things that’s a real positive about what’s happening to the sector is that yes, the sector is going through a really hard time and yesterday we’re going to be cuts made and everything else but I think if you’re clever about it, you can almost take more control than ever in terms of how you actually put your career together. It’s partly because everyone’s up in the air, nobody has any of what’s coming and because of that, people are much more open to suggestions, but you need to have that suggestion yourself.
So it’s a really good time to sit down and reflect on what career success looks like to you and to particularly move away from all those societal norms we have in our heads of thinking, “Well as I carry on through my career, I have to get more and more senior, more and more money, more and more responsibility,” which is great if that’s what you like. But if that’s not for you, there’s no reason to say that’s what success is.
And given that none of us are working in a sector where… Say if you’re an investment banker or something, I won’t spit on the floor, you could say, “Well, I’m going to take a job that I hate in Dubai for eight years, but it’s going to pay so much money that I’ll take the eight years of having a terrible time because then I can retire and live on an Island for the rest of the rest of my time.” We’re never going to do that in this sector by going into roles we don’t like so you may as well work out something that pays what you need, but also can be satisfying too.
And for a lot of people, when I really break it down with them, that comes down to having a much better work-life balance. So maybe working down to four days a week, three days a week, something like that, and being able to do other things in those other days.
If you really sit down and work out what your career sweet spot is in terms of what would really feel like you’ve got to a point where you’re content rather than make it rich, because as I say, we’re not going to just get there in this sector. Work out what would really make you content in terms of type of role, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a particular income stream, but maybe just whether it’s managing a team, not managing a team, dealing directly with supporters, whatever. So what type of role, how much do you need to live on and how many days per week. Work out that package and then there’s nothing to stop you phoning organizations that have jobs, like I said earlier, or even that don’t have jobs, and almost pitching yourself in as this package, working out what your USP is as an employee, what your packages is, and pitching that into places.
As things are so up in the air, I think a lot of people are going to have a lot more success if their actually pitching into organizations with a solution because organizations are still thinking in terms of, “How are we going to cope through COVID with the structure we’ve already got, with all of these members of staff on five days a week?” And they can’t get themselves into a mindset of anything else. Partly because often it’s coming down from trustees who are definitely not of a generation that had more flexible working.
So if you’re able to go to a director of fundraising or a chief exec and say, “Look, I think I can come in to this number of days per week doing this kind of role and it would achieve this for you and this is why my achievements show I could do that.” It might just be that you’re talking to somebody who’s been racking their brains about how to make a certain bit of delivery work and you’re going to them with this little gift wrapped present of a solution for a question they had, which they hadn’t been able to come up with something for.
And even though you might get knocked back a lot, hey, getting knocked back is totally fine because it’s just somebody say no, and then it’s another person in your network anyway. But it may be that just one or two people say, “Well, you know what, maybe let’s have a chat about it.” And it could be that it’s almost because everyone’s so unsure about what’s going on, it could be the perfect time for you to actually work out your ideal and make it happen somewhere that’s appealing to you as an organization and geographically good for you in terms of a commute when we get back to having to commute to work.
So really sit down and take the time to reflect on what is ideal to you because I find in a lot of people’s cases, it’s not what they initially thought it was and it’s actually much easier to achieve than what they thought was their career goal.
And because this just is a relatively modern paradigm compared to 10 years ago, or certainly what our parents would have expected from how jobs work, do you have an example of someone in the last five years who’s done this different approach and how they did it? Obviously don’t mention the name or the organization even, but just so that we can get reinforced in our brain a sense of, “Oh, people are doing this right now. This is not just a Star Trek thing. This is real now. Some people are doing it already.”
Yeah. There’s a few I can think of actually. But yeah, mentioning no names, obviously. They were working on a five day a week role and actually gone to their employees and said, “I want to stay here, but I want to cut down to three days a week.” And because their employer is actually often thinking, “If I went to my employer and resigned, what would they offer me?” And actually having that conversation ahead of time. So they’ve gone and asked their employer, “Look, I want to work three days a week or I’m going to have to go.” But not in a pushy way, just having a conversation. And then they’ve gone three days a week where they are and being able to do two days a week consultancy.
Equally, some people I’ve worked for over the years have done pretty much exactly what I was suggesting. They’ve been in a five day, a week role wanted to move down. So they’ve just found charities that are within spitting distance of where they live and just picked up the phone to the director of fundraising usually. The ones I’m thinking of is fundraising manager level, phoned up for roles they’ve got available and just said, “Look, this is what I’m offering. I’m offering three days a week, but this is why I’m good. And I think we can maybe build that into our team structure.”
And one particular one went in, they’d never had part-time working at all there. They went in on three days a week to this leadership role and over time they’ve actually allowed much more of the staff team to go flexible as well and it’s actually ended up being a really good way of staff retention for that organization. As soon as it started happening, became something they were talking about. More members of staff felt comfortable saying they wanted to go part time, whereas they probably would have left anyway.
And it gave them more flexibility because they had income streams covered with say three day a week people, but then were able to pull in support for maybe little bits of income stream like, say, challenge events that they didn’t need somebody five days a week for when they’re first testing it out but two days a week worked really well. And they were able to get people in on two days a week who were really good because two day a week rolls don’t come up very often.
So they’re able to attract these amazing people, which they probably wouldn’t have got on their salary scale otherwise, and built this really nice, healthy team that have got real buy-in to the organization because they feel looked after and they understand the organization’s flexible so they’re willing to be as well.
The one caveat I would say to all of this, though, if you do go down to a part-time role, reign yourself in in the early days of the role in terms of it’s really easy… I mean, any of us, when you start in a role, you want to go in and put your best foot forward and over deliver. I would always say to everyone, particularly with fundraising, because fundraising is a never ending task as we know, it’s really easy to go in and go in with 150% just to really show how great you are. But then when you then go down to a hundred percent two months in, whether or not the people you’re working for think that you’ve taken your foot off the gas, you will think they will think you’ve taken your foot off the gas and worry about it.
And that’s so much more important with a part-time role because it’s really easy if you’re 150% to essentially be doing five days a week, and then putting that back, particularly if you’re the only part-time person at that time, does feel really noticeable. So you have to be really, really tight with yourself to stick to doing as much as you can in the time you’ve got and being satisfied with that and then going back in the next day you’re working and doing another day’s work and stepping away again. And the only person that can actually make you do that is you.
Thank you very much, a great question and really insightful answers. We’re going to finish in a moment Paul, any last thought that you ha hasn’t quite come up yet because the questions we’ve asked you? If a good friend of yours worked in this sector for the next six months, you’d really want them to be aware of this angle on it that you see, because you’re an expert and you’re talking to lots of recruiters and lots of job hunters and you’re coaching people. Any last message that might encourage us or for us to be aware of as an opportunity so that we can find the good in all of this difficulty, what would it be?
I think really take the time because it’s… Well, I know I’m certainly like this, that I don’t tend to do anything until it’s the last moment almost. But with job hunting, it’s very hard to do that because if you do suddenly find out you’re going to be made redundant or something along those lines, you’ve got to make what’s a very big life decision in quite a short space of time and under a certain level of panic, which is never the best way to do it.
So because we all know that things are up in the air, I would almost say it’s almost that prepare for the worst but hope for the best. So go through a what if scenario. “What if tomorrow I found out my charity was going under? What would I do?” And really think about, “Okay, well, this is how I could deal with that.” So you prepared yourself for it mentally, but start thinking because you know that could happen at any time and frankly, even not in COVID times that’s happened with charities overnight.
So as I said before, take the time to really work out what your sweet spot is career-wise and ways you can get there and then start putting those things in place. It could be having open conversations with people that you think might be good employers for you. Even if you don’t need it now, there may be in a year or two years, there’s nothing to stop you contacting them now and having those conversations. Like Rob said, people are very up for having chats with people who aren’t saying, “I want to work for you now,” but just, “I like you, I’ve heard good things about you. Let’s have a conversation.” Start doing those things now and building this network up of organizations you like the look of on the surface, you can have conversations with, and then whittle that down to the ones you not only like the look of on the surface, but having spoken to them, you like how they sound.
And that will allow you slowly but surely, even when it’s not urgent, to build up this nice network of possibilities that if things do get to the point where you need to start actively thinking about next steps, you’ve got a load of people you can pick up the phone to and just say, “Look, time’s right. Is there anything coming up?” Or it might be they told you about something coming up in six months time and you think, “Well, I wasn’t necessarily wanting to leave immediately, but that does sound ideal and I can move on to that.”
So, because we are being so unsure, take that as your kick to just really think actively about what’s important to you and what will make you really content. And then you can start taking small steps to make that happen, either in your organization by developing your role a little bit internally or outside by building this network and then being able to move into it if and when you have to or want to.
And, and if you’re stuck on what that sweet spot looks like, I really liked the advice from the excellent Liz Tate on my podcast where she was advised years ago to look at job ads, find five job ads that for whatever reason she liked. And she was able to do that, even though at that point she wasn’t qualified to do those things, but she knew that she would like to be able to do that at some point. And then after getting greater clarity on what she wanted, then she was able to work back and find a way to fill in the gaps, to get to a point where she was horrible for those roles. Whereas usually what we do is we look at job ads, see all the things we can’t do and then stop.
By doing that, she increased the clarity for what she did want and then worked back from it. So she had pull motivation rather than just the difficulty of push motivation and willpower, even though you feel like you’re failing to match what you think that you want. I need to finish very soon, but for now huge thank you, Paul, for giving up your time and really thoughtful, helpful tips. I really appreciate it.
So I hope you found our discussion helpful. Even if you’re not searching for a new job right now, I hope you found Paul’s approach to designing your career was also helpful. And if you’ve got any friends who are needing to look for a new job right now, please do share this with them as we would love for Paul’s tips to reach as many people as possible.
And if you’d like to find out more about my training and inspiration site for fundraisers, do check it out at brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join. And if you’re curious, you can just join for a single month to test for yourself how helpful these resources are for your fundraising. And if you want to get in touch, we would love to hear from you. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter Paul is @paulconsulting and I am @woods_rob.
Finally, thank you so much for listening today. We do hope your fundraising is going well and that your job is secure but if at any point that changes, Paul and I wish you the very best of luck finding a job that you love. Until the next time, stay safe and good luck with all your efforts to make a positive difference.