Ten Job Seeking Tips for the Free-Market Nonprofit Sector
1. Utilize Your Network
I always bristle when I hear the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it is who you know.” So it pains me to tell you it’s true – especially in the free-market nonprofit sector. Tap into your network, including friends, former bosses, professors, recruiters (ahem), and even acquaintances to help you find a job.
2. Educate Yourself
If someone says the name Hayek in a conversation and the first thing that pops into your mind is Salma, you should probably start boning up on the free-market movement. Do some research, read some books, spend time on fascinating websites, discover relevant blogs, find out about the different organizations and the roles they play in advancing social change. All of this will help you better understand not only what this sector is about, but also how you might fit in.
3. Get Active
If you want a job in the free-market nonprofit sector, get off the couch and start getting involved. Attend a tea party in your home state. Attend Cato University. Attend a seminar sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. Go to FreedomFest. Get to know our world and let us get to know you.
4. Figure Out How You Can Contribute
A lot of talented folks in the private sector ask me if I can help them find a job in the free-market arena. The first thing I typically ask is, “What do you want to do?” Radio silence. It sounds so obvious, but most people do not stop and think how they can contribute. Maybe you are a great project manager. Maybe you have exquisite marketing and communication skills. Maybe you are tech genius. Spend some time thinking about your existing skillset and how it could translate into the free-market nonprofit world. And before you settle on something, see #5.
5. Figure Out What You Want to Do
Hands down, the most common response to my question about what someone wants to do in the free-market nonprofit sector is “I want to be a policy analyst and writer.” And I wanted to be a supermodel, but some things just do not work out as planned. Here’s the thing: we turn on the television and see these bright, articulate, free-market policy analysts or we pick up National Review and read an article and we find ourselves shaking our heads vigorously in agreement with their eloquent words. Then we get the bright idea that we, too, can do that! And maybe you can, but chances are your existing skillset makes you a better match for something else. So just think about it before you get your heart set on policy analysis. (Full disclosure: I was one of those people that was convinced I should leave the private sector and become a policy analyst. However, I learned quickly that was not my comparative advantage. In fact, it was almost as far-fetched as the supermodel idea…oh well!)
6. Make Sure You Are Committed to the Cause
You might read an article in the paper about something involving our growing government and shrinking liberties and decide you want to do dedicate your career to doing something about it. Are you sure about that? Or is it just a fleeting thought? The free-market nonprofit sector needs people who are committed to the cause and who actually want to make a career out of social change. Once you are here, you will find it is an amazing community with an abundance of intelligent and driven people, mental stimulation, and very worthy causes.
7. Adjust Your Salary Expectations, But Don’t Buy Ramen Noodles
It is true there are not that many people in the free-market nonprofit sector pulling in a half million bucks a year. However, you can still make a great living, support a family, and live comfortably in this arena. If you are talented and work hard, you will find most organizations will reward you for your efforts.
8. Everyone is a Potential Reference
Everyone you have worked with – directly and indirectly – is a potential reference. Even if you do not list his name as a reference, there is no guarantee your potential employer will not call around and ask about you. Therefore, the lesson here is always be professional, work hard, and do not burn bridges.
9. Master the Art of the One-Page Résumé
Hiring managers receive dozens of résumés for each opening they attempt to fill. They will appreciate a concise one-page résumé that quickly tells them if you have the skills and experience they need. The exception to this rule is academic-oriented roles, for which a longer curriculum vitae listing publications is customary.
10. Get Involved Before You Get More Education
I have talked to many people whose end goal is to end up in the free-market nonprofit sector, but before they jump in, they want to get a doctorate, a law degree, or a master’s degree in a relevant field to make themselves more marketable. Now, before you go acquiring large sums of debt and a fancy degree, why not get involved in the movement first? You may find out you do not need an advanced degree for what you want to do, or you may find out you need a different degree than you had planned. (Full disclosure: I got a fancy degree I rarely use, so I offer this advice from experience!)