Ephraim Gopin moderates a panel of nonprofit pros – Mimosa Kabir, Sarah Willey, and Lisa Chmiola – to look at the issue of being laid off and ask: what next? What should I be doing to find the next big thing for me? How do I deal with going through the interview process all over again? How can I make sure I find the right fit for me, with a salary that meets my needs?

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Friends, is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Lisa: Let’s do it.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the east coast. Good morning if you’re out on the west coast or somewhere in between, and if you’re watching this recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter when and where you are. We got a really fun panel discussion for you all around what you should do if you happen to find yourself out of the job in the fundraising and nonprofit sector. So thanks so much for being here. We’re going to have some fun over the next hour or so. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I will not be moderating, which I think is the first time I’ve ever said that in 10 years. This is great. We got a fun panel and a moderator for you.

So I’m just going to run through some quick housekeeping items and then I’m going to hand it off because folks don’t want to hear from me. I have nothing to say on this topic. So quick, real quick, we are recording this presentation and we will be sending out the recording. There are no slides. I didn’t take that off my template here. So don’t worry. We’ll get that recording in your hands later on today. I will email it to you. So just be on the lookout for an email from me. You’ll have it before dinner time. I promise. But most importantly, we love for these sessions to be interactive and today is no exception. So use that chat box on your webinar screen. There’s also a Q&A box. So you can use either of those. We will see them. It might be a little easier for us to see if you use the Q&A, but that’s okay. Talk to each other, introduce yourself in the chat if you haven’t already because we will save some time for some Q&A once we kind of get through our scripted questions.

You can also tweet us. We’ll keep an eye on Twitter, but bottom line is we want to hear from you. And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just real quick, if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, maybe you only know us for these webinars, which we do every Thursday. We’re also a provider of donor management software. So you can check that out if you are interested. We’re pretty easy to find online. But don’t do that right now because like I said, you’re in for a real treat over the next hour or so. I don’t think we have ever done a panel like this and hopefully this will not be the last one we do, but I am going to hand it over to my buddy, Ephraim, who is joining us and really was kind of the mastermind and in putting together this group. So I’m going to pipe down, but I will be in the chat if anyone needs me. So, Ephraim, take it away, my friend.

Ephraim: Thank you very much, Steven. Hi everyone. My name’s Ephraim Gopin, founder of 1832 Communications and I’ll be your moderator for this panel webinar. A few months ago, I pitched this panel idea to Steven and he immediately got behind it. So a major thank you both to Bloomerang for hosting us and a special shout out to Steven for helping to make this happen. 

In terms of the actual topic, being laid off hurts, plain and simple. When it happened to me, I know it didn’t just affect me financially, but it was also affected me emotionally. The journey to find that next big gig can be tiring, grueling, painful, and sometimes it feels like you’re just banging your head against the wall. I understand and acknowledge that everyone’s experience is unique and different. Over the next hour, you’re going to hear from our panel of experts. You’ll get expert advice and tips from them based on how they’ve gone through certain journeys in their lives. So my hope is that if your journey is different than theirs, at least you’ll find some takeaways that you can use as you move forward. I will be monitoring the chat throughout. So if you have the questions, I’m going to try and fit in some up questions to what our panelists say and, of course, as Steven mentioned, there will definitely be time for Q&A at the end. So let’s get started. And I’m going to ask Mimosa to please introduce herself to all the attendees. Thanks.

Mimosa: Yes, of course. Hi. My name is Mimosa. I am a fundraiser who’s been working out of Toronto for the last 10 years. I have not had the experience of being laid off myself, but I have switched and transitioned jobs quite a few times and as a job seeker and as someone who is a go-to person for all my friends applying for jobs, I have a lot of experience in, you know, reading resumes and supporting, you know, colleagues and friends through the process of looking for new work and also, you know, negotiating and all of that. So I’m really excited to be here, and thank you for having me.

Ephraim: Excellent. Lisa, go ahead.

Lisa: Hi. I’m Lisa Chmiola. I’m based in New Orleans, Louisiana. I have been in philanthropic development for nearly 20 years and started my career as an event-based fundraiser, worked into individual giving throughout Southwest Louisiana, Houston, and then moved here four years ago. And in the early phases of the pandemic last year, I was first indefinitely furloughed and a few weeks later my position was completely eliminated from my employer. And so I’m looking forward to being able to share how some of that happened and the lessons that I learned and provide some helpful tips if you find yourself in the same situation.

Ephraim: Thank you very much. And, Sarah, please introduce yourself.

Sarah: Hey, everybody. I’m Sarah Willey. I work as a fundraising consultant. Prior to that, I was employed and was laid off like Lisa during the pandemic. In my case, it was much later in the pandemic. So it was actually the end of November last year in 2020 when I was laid off from that job. And I’ve been, you know, through a whole journey that we’ll talk about with that, but very happy with where I’ve landed and the work I get to do now as a consultant.

Ephraim: Okay. Good. So we’ll start there. That’s a good way to open up the discussion. Sarah, I’m going to start with you in the first question. When you were let go, was it a complete shock or surprise or did you know that it was coming?

Sarah: When I was let go, it was a complete shock. So I was at a university and in the early part of the pandemic, the university was hit hard by just the economic changes that were happening in the country and in our state. And there was a whole round of layoffs, but at that initial time, the sort of revenue-generating departments were spared from those layoffs and so my team was still intact and overall the advancement department really didn’t lose much of anyone and I guess they decided to do a second round of layoffs and I must’ve been one of the very first. So none of us really had any warning that more were coming and I was just completely surprised by it. And I just kind of remember just sitting there, like that’s not what I thought the meeting I was just invited to come to was going to be. And my boss was just as surprised as I was and, you know, going and dropping my things off a few days later and saying goodbye to her just felt super weird because there was just not the same closure that you would normally get when you choose to leave a job and kind of know that that’s coming and know you’re about to make that announcement and then have maybe those last two weeks in the office before you go.

Ephraim: Wow. So let me ask a follow-up question. Because it came as a total shock, did being let go affect your self-confidence in the weeks after you were told?

Sarah: You know, I actually don’t think that it did for me. I feel like my boss and even her boss were very forthright in their support of who I had been as an employee and that this was truly just a budget decision. And one of the ways that I sort of dealt in the immediate aftermath was to post on social media and share that this had just happened to me and the outpouring of things that people had to say that were so nice and “Have you seen this job description in my DMs,” just really I think boosted whatever self-confidence that I might have lost through that, and so that’s a tribute to the wonderful network of people in my life who all really jumped into do what they could to support me and to really affirm my expertise and my value in my profession.

Ephraim: Excellent. That’s a very important point, obviously, for everybody who’s listening that your network, that network and this network of support to help you through that tough time. So let’s move to you, Lisa. Same question as I asked Sarah. When you were let go, was it a complete shock or surprise or did you know that this was coming?

Lisa: So my answer is different. It’s yes and no because I was let go in phases. It’s a little different than Sarah’s experience. So as you may be aware, New Orleans was a very early epicenter of the pandemic here in the United States. And so lock downs and things like that began here very quickly. My last position as an employee of somebody else was to work for a church-based nonprofit. And as you can imagine, with services going virtual and people not showing up in the church to be able to continue to make those donations, that changed the revenue game, I think, very quickly for my employer. And I would say it was about a month after we had been working from home, several of us on our team did receive the phone call that we were being placed on that indefinite furlough. That was an absolute shock.

That was literally my boss calling me. I pick up the phone because it’s your boss and it’s, “Here’s the news. In nine days, you will no longer have a paycheck. You’ll have insurance for X amount of time.” And with a furlough, it’s a little different because when you are on furlough, you could be brought back. You could be brought back in two weeks, you could be brought back in six months, or you could never get the chance to come back. And there’s another layer to that, is because when you were on furlough, you really can’t legally have contact with your employer. There’s that whole, you don’t want to mess up. I was fortunately eligible for some unemployment during that period, so you don’t want to have the potential, oh, they call you and ask you a question about a donor, you can’t answer that.

So I had nine days to very quickly close up my work almost as like, as if I was hit by a bus. We always joke about that analogy of, “Oh, we have to be prepared for, “Well, what if you get hit by . . .” This was literally, I had to, on that last day, go put my equipment in my office and then be prepared to not think about work until they told me whether or not I was coming back. About a week after that furlough began, they filed for bankruptcy. So yeah, the local church filed for bankruptcy. So when I received a phone call a week after the bankruptcy announcement that my and several other positions were being permanently eliminated, that was not a surprise to me. That was actually quite frankly a little bit of a relief because I knew and then I could move on and I could start making plans because being on the furlough and being able to receive some unemployment, I wasn’t necessarily looking for another job although I had my mind open to it because there was no promise I was being brought back. But it happened so quickly for me, I didn’t even have time to really start processing that until I received the call that said your position is being permanently eliminated in three weeks.

Ephraim: All right. I already see in the chat, we have a couple of comments about what Lisa just said. Lisa, I’m going to . . . The next question is for Mimosa. If you want to answer the one or two people who had comments about it, please do. So Mimosa, you still have your job. You have not been let go, knock on wood, it should continue that way for a long, long time. But given the current global uncertainty, are you finding added stresses to your job, worrying about what might be tomorrow or in the coming months?

Mimosa: Absolutely. I’ll say at the beginning of the pandemic, there were so many stories of friends and family who were being like go, that there was a culture of uncertainty and through this whole last year, there’s been a period of navigating through uncertainty, which I think is challenging overall. What I’ve learned is, and I cannot remember where I learned this quote, but it was that “The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty, it’s presence.” So, you know, through uncertainty, you can take it one day at a time and really, you know, on days where you feel really nervous, a lot of people say, “Don’t think about the worst case scenario.” For me thinking about the worst case scenario is what helps me prepare. So, you know, if you work out the worst case scenario, you can work out some of the actions that you could take if certain things happen. 

So, you know, as much as you’re being present, there’s also an element of preparation because the truth is even before this pandemic, nothing is certain. Even if we operate as if it is certain, you know, the option of being let go or certain situations arising at work, that’s there all the time. I think the pandemic just highlighted it or pulled it together in a way that more people experienced it at the same time. So I think, you know, you can mitigate things in the future, but really also being present and kind of doing the best with what you have at the moment is probably the best way to navigate through that.

Ephraim: Excellent. I like that attitude and the way you framed it. That was fantastic. So just before I continue, Sarah, I saw your question in the Q&A. In terms of going from a for-profit to a nonprofit, I’ve made that jump. During the Q&A, I hope to remember it. If I don’t, Sarah, please remind me in the chat. I will answer that question. Sarah Presley asked that question. So, Sarah, I will get back to it at the end and I’ll be able to give you a couple of tips about that. So we’ve now heard your personal stories and I want to start helping the people who are in the audience right now. Let’s move forward. So let’s start talking, and we’ll start with you, Sarah. Let’s talk about the next morning. You wake up and now you got a search for a new job. What tips or advice or best practices can you share that, you know, to get that process at least started?

Sarah: Sure. So the next day, I mean, at that point, you’re in this like emotional place. And I think a lot of what works best depends partly on personality, and are you the kind of person who prefers to dive into action and save your emotions for processing later or are you better off if you go ahead and do some of that emotional processing first? And part of it depends also on your financial situation and, you know, in the United States, your healthcare situation with walking away from a job. So do you have a severance package that’s going to keep some of those benefits and some of that pay in place for awhile? Did you have vacation days saved up, that kind of thing? Or are you in a position where you don’t really have a choice but to immediately take action steps? I was fortunate enough that I was in a position where I could take some time if I needed to, but I’m also a personality that wants to focus on action and dealing with it and moving forward and store those emotions away for as late as possible.

And ironically, I had an appointment scheduled with my therapist the next day. And so I got to have that conversation with her just because we already had an appointment on the books and. you know, her deal was like, “Hey, Sarah, you need to make sure you make a little time to process. Like there’s going to be some grief. This is a form of trauma. And so do that.” And so I would encourage anyone in this position to, you know, not ignore those things and whether it’s with a therapist or however it is that you deal when you have emotional things to deal with, it’s real and whatever you feel is valid. But in terms of next steps, for me, it really was about figuring out what I wanted to do next. I had already been having conversations over the months prior to that with some of my mentors about making a switch to consulting.

And so, for me, it made sense to go ahead and make that leap, that what would have been for me a more intentional slow process of doing a little bit on the side for a few years and having more money in the bank to feel comfortable as a very risk averse person, making such a big career jump. Instead I just jumped right in. And so over the first few weeks, I really thought about looking at jobs to apply for and I spent a lot of time with my budget spreadsheets at home, trying to figure out like, what am I going to need if consulting is going to work? What am I going to have to make? Or if I took a job, what would that look like? So I think, you know, giving yourself time to think about what’s right for you, but it doesn’t hurt if you’ve done some planning over the course of your career and have a sense of where you’re trying to go and can, you know, already have that roadmap that you can pull back out when you find one of these unexpected situations crop up. So that helped me a lot.

Ephraim: No. So I think it’s, as you said, it’s, it’s unique to each person and their personality and how they think, although I love the fact that you use spreadsheets and data to help make your decision. So two thumbs up, at least for me. Marty, I see your comment in the chat. We’re going to get to that I think in the next question, actually. But before we do that, Mimosa, the next morning, what would you tell people that they should be doing when they wake up?

Mimosa: Well, I think for me, the type of person I am, it would definitely be creating a plan. I think that anytime you’re transitioning, it’s an opportunity to realign. You know, certain times when you’re taking a job there, I think that shift what your values may be or what you’re looking for out of your next work experience. So I think it’s an opportunity to really reflect and also, you know, as Sarah mentioned, that you might be juggling different priorities, you know? And so once you’re able to kind of figure out what those priorities are, you can look for alignment in a job, hopefully, that brings that to the table, if that is employment right away because you need it for financial reasons, then you know that that’s top of mind and you can focus on other things later. If you have the opportunity to, you know, think about a different kind of flexibility or approach in terms of what your next role brings for transitioning to the next level in your career, then that, you know, that reflection period can help you plan for how do I get to that level and how do I use this as an opportunity to leverage myself into a different playing field?

Ephraim: Excellent. Lisa, the next morning, what am I doing?

Lisa: So, for me, since it was a little bit of a delayed reaction because I had the phased layoff, I had already done a few of the things that Sarah had mentioned. Yeah. I already cashed out my vacation days and had those kinds of things and I already knew when my health insurance was ending. So I had kind of started planning through some of that. The next day after I found out that this was a permanent deal, I consciously chose that I would take until . . . It was I had until June 1st. June 1st was when it was going to be official. I decided I was not going to announce it publicly until it was official because I did want to take time to do that reflecting on where I wanted to go next. I am very much a bit of that action-oriented personality as well, but I knew that, and much like Sarah said, I was very grateful that I had such supportive networks.

When I did make that announcement, people were asking, “Do you want to stay in philanthropic development? Do you want to stay in New Orleans? What would you like to do? How can we help?” And for me to take that time to reflect on what kind of work I wanted to do, which for me that did end up being going through several job searches at first before I decided to launch my consulting firm a few months later, but as much as . . . But then again, like Sarah said, I fortunately had done some of the same things she mentioned, had done a budget and done some resources and said, “Okay. We were in the phase of the pandemic where people on unemployment were also receiving that bonus from the federal government to make it a little more livable.” So I was able to get by on that, had some savings, was able to say, “I am not going to rush into my next step. I really want to figure out what the right thing is, but knowing that when that bonus was getting closer to run out, I really needed to have some kind of a plan of where I wanted to go. So I kind of did the 30,000-foot view over that time and then really a few weeks later launched into more and really jumped into action June 1st when I let everybody know.

Ephraim: Excellent. So I just want to follow up to all your answers and tell you from my personal experience, I did not tell anybody and I did not reach out to my network. I think that there was a certain amount of shame in being let go. I was embarrassed that I had been let go. You know, you don’t think that it’s ever happened to anyone else, it’s only happened to you or at least that’s kind of how I felt, but I can say that even though I didn’t go to my network, it happened, I think, on a Wednesday or Thursday. I took the weekend and I said, “I’m not, you know, yes, I’m going to be thinking about it, but I’m not dealing with it.” And then Monday morning I transitioned. That’s when I made that switch, I closed the book on one chapter and I said, “Okay. Opening up a new book. Let’s figure out the next move.” 

And it was that Monday where I started saying, “Okay. Who do I need to contact in my network?” HR people, friends in the right places, whatever it is, and start, you know, getting the process along. 

And, Marty, I saw your comment about the career change and everything else. I’m just reading, there’s one comment here from . . . Yes. Yes, Cam, 100% personal networks. It is all about personal networks. And obviously you have . . . between social media and everything else, you now have a network that should not just be in your local area or city where you live. You can branch out. Plenty of jobs obviously are now remote. And that I think is going to continue for quite a while. So you actually have potentially more opportunity, assuming that you dip into your network and ask them to help you. 

So following up now on that, and, Mimosa, we’re going to start this question with you. I now have transitioned. I said, “Okay, I’ve started to apply to jobs.” I’ve lined up a couple of interviews. How do you prepare for interviews?

Mimosa: I start with two things. First, I always pull up the job description and I look for examples from my own career. Sort of like a cross referencing that I do. I pull up two screens. One is my . . . the job posting itself and one is my own resume. And I look for all the alignments and examples of situations where I might have had the experience that is listed in the job description. One thing I will say about job descriptions though is I firmly believe that, you know, you don’t have to meet 100% of it. So this isn’t to say that you should check every box because you want a career you can grow into. You’re going to get bored if you already do 100% of the job. So, you know, I would look to fill at least 70%, 75% and speak to that as my strength.

One of the books that I will recommend as a resource later, they talk about in the job interview process, sort of three things that you should be able to answer, which is what are my strengths? What are my motivations? And am I the right fit? So if you go into the interview and you look to say, “Hey. My strengths are the right fit for this job. My motivations are the right fit for this job. I am the right fit for this job.” That’s the main answer that they’re looking for in terms of hiring you. So really preparing, knowing your own experience and how to speak to it. So I do think there’s such a thing as over-preparing, but as long as you know your own experiences and where they fit into what the job is looking for, I think that you’d be really set.

Ephraim: That is just a fantastic answer. And what you said you do where you have the job description and your resume side by is such a . . . I’d never thought to do that, but I think that’s such a great idea simply to put them side by side and see, “Do I fit in, do I not fit?” And that’s great. I, I like that. And I’m hoping . . . Joe, hi from the UK. Thank you very much for being here with us. I saw your question. I hope that Mimosa’s answer regarding skills was helpful to you just now in answering your question. Melissa, I also saw your question. I’m going to use that as a follow-up in a second, but first I want to hear from Lisa. How do you prepare for interviews?

Lisa: Yeah. So once I had jumped in, I didn’t really treat this too terribly differently than I prepared for interviews in the past except for the fact that I needed to be prepared to explain where I was. I mean, you always get that question in the interview, right? It’s the whole, not just why do you want to come to work here, but why are you looking to leave where you are? So I knew I would have to be able to tell the story of my layoff, but also in a respectful and sensitive way. And quite frankly, even though I went through some emotional process like Sarah mentioned before, I mean, it is grief. It does hurt. I did have that, was we talked about earlier, that little bit of a blow to my self-confidence in that you sit there and go, “I’m a fundraiser and we need to raise money and they couldn’t figure out some way to make this work? What’s going on? What’s wrong with me?”

So to be able to discuss that and understanding that it was a business decision of why my position and others were eliminated. And so to be able to explain that story succinctly and just where I was moving on and where I was going from there . . . I think what I also do in addition to a lot of the things that Mimosa has already mentioned, I like to know, especially if it is a panel type of situation, or if there are multiple interviews within a day or within a week, who all the people are that are going to be in the room that are going to be interviewing me and who I’m going to be having the conversation with because I’m going to research them. I want to know a little bit about them too. I want to find those commonalities. I also like to ask when I’m in the interview, their story with the organization. Storytelling is just so important to me.

I think knowing your why is critical. And so being able to hear from my potential future colleagues or board members I might be working with, those are definitely items that I will do at my interview prep as well. And I think the other thing too is, as Mimosa said, as you’re looking through the job description and your resume and reflecting on your experience, where can you bring solutions to the table? So most of my recent experience has been in planned giving, gift planning, legacy giving, that type of work. And so with some of the organizations that I did interview with, that was definitely something where there might’ve been a need there that I could help fill. And so I’d want to make sure to be able to speak to that and address that and ask what the organization’s focus was in that area, or did they have any experience in that area, and just where they were going with that strategy. So also just kind of looking for ways that maybe you can stand out a little bit more from other candidates.

Ephraim: Perfect. So I will take at least one thing that you said, Google is your friend. When you’re looking for a job, Google. Margaret, I saw what you . . . I know that Mimosa answered your question regarding the book. I just want to let everybody know, I’ve prepared some resources. I haven’t prepared. Sorry. Our panelists have prepared resources for attendees. I’ll put it in the chat box at the end. And if I forget, Steven, in his email, when he sends out the recording of the webinar, there’ll be a link to those resources. You can go, you can learn books and other resources for you to use. Sarah, how do you prepare for interviews?

Sarah: Well, definitely everything that Lisa and Mimosa have already said. So I’ll spare us the time and not just to repeat all of those. A couple of things I would add, one is I always make sure that I’m prepared to ask a few questions as well as answer the ones I’m anticipating from the person or people I’m interviewing with. And a lot of times that comes from maybe looking over the organization’s 990 or, you know, the equivalent in another country if you’re not in the U.S. So the tax documents, looking over, you know, budgets, annual reports, whatever you can find, reading through their website, and being prepared to ask questions both about maybe the organization’s mission and where they’re heading as well as about things like what the work environment might be like, especially now in this period of time where things might be remote at the moment, to some extent, if not fully, but what does it look like, you know, in six months or whenever things start to change, understanding those things, trying to get a feel for . . . You know, one of the ones I love to ask is just what brought you to this organization, right? Because I think it tells a lot if you get the passion for the mission from the folks that are already there, that are interviewing you and can give you kind of a cue as to what brings them there and what keeps them there and if it feels like the right fit for you.

The other thing to maybe start sounding like a broken record is really to tap your network. A lot of times I’m able to reach out to somebody who either has already worked at that organization or has some other connections to the people who might be on that hiring panel and get some inside scoop from them on what are they looking for in this role? A lot of times, even before I apply for a position, I’ll have conversations like that that really helped me see, is this a place that’s going to be a good fit for me? Is what they’re looking for in an employee and the kind of way that they like to organize their work environment and style a good alignment and a good fit? Is it going to give me what I’m looking for in my next role or not? And so definitely, you know, take advantage of that if you have that.

Ephraim: Yeah. For sure. You don’t want to end up in a situation that’s not going to be a good fit for you. So whatever you can find out, the good and the bad in advance, absolutely. So I want to ask all of you a follow-up question and ask if you can just keep your answers to 30 seconds to a minute. It’s a bit of a broader issue, but I’m going to ask. If you’ve been laid off and we’re talking now about interviews, one of the things they’re going to ask you is can we get a recommendation from your last employer? It could be that the people who are interviewing you don’t know you’ve been laid off. You’re not telling them, and that’s fine. What would you say in that case? How do you go about getting a recommendation from an old employer if that old employer has laid you off? Sarah, we’ll start with you.

Sarah: Well, in my case, I was directly offered like in the moment where they had the conversation and told me that they were laying me off. They offered to provide a reference if I wanted it. And later some of the folks on the team that I had worked on also reached out to independently offer that. So I was fortunate in that sense that it was already there, it was already offered. There was, you know, a lot of love still between myself and the people I work most closely with at that organization and a lot of respect. But if you’re not in that position, if maybe in your case it wasn’t just a COVID layoff, but maybe it was not a happy work environment, maybe you all didn’t get along for whatever reason that, you know, if you think there’s a chance that there’s somebody, whether it’s actually the person you reported to or somebody that you worked with who would be willing to be a reference, reach out and ask so that you know ahead of time if that’s going to be somebody who can list. 

But I think it’s also okay, especially if it’s your either current employer because you haven’t been laid off and you’re looking or whether it’s your most recent employer, whether it’s due to a layoff or wherever you left, it’s perfectly fine to leave, you know, your references off from that particular employer and look to other places you’ve worked or other people you’ve worked with as your list of references. So it doesn’t have to be that you have one that comes from that very last, most recent employer.

Ephraim: All right. Lisa, how would you deal with that issue?

Lisa: So in my situation, it was same with Sarah. I was offered not only by my supervisor, but also had some volunteers that offered and served as references or connections for me as well. I think to add to what Sarah said, there is the consideration, especially in some larger organizations where no one is allowed to give an official reference or referral except human resources. So I think that is something to keep in mind as well, is your employer is even able to. But I mean much like Sarah, I would probably handle it in a similar type of way of when I’ve been searching for positions and I’m still currently employed, obviously, don’t want you contacting my employer to let them know that I might leave them for you. So finding a colleague or, you know, a trusted volunteer or something along those lines where someone that you trust with the confident reality to be able to serve as that referral or Sarah said, I think people would understand your current employer, your most recent employer, there might be a reason to not leave them. Yeah.

Ephraim: Okay. Mimosa, I’m going to sharpen it a little bit. What happens if you left on bad terms with an employer? Now what?

Mimosa: Yeah. I think that’s a tough question. I think as Lisa had mentioned before, like crafting your story and, and you know, what you want to share in the interview process about what happened in your last situation would help you frame it in that way. So depending on how much you want to share about your experience, there might be a natural explanation as to that job was not really the right fit for me. I don’t know that they’re the best to speak to my abilities in this situation because it did not work out there. You know, I always aim for an honest approach, but I understand that there is also discomfort and there’s, you know, feelings and emotions underneath all of it. So I think, you know, in that honest approach of it wasn’t a good fit. So that wasn’t the best example of my work. I’d really like to give you people who I think can speak to what I will bring to the table here.

I have had the experience of pushing back on previous jobs where they required me to give my current manager and that was part of it and I had to say no. And it wasn’t because it was a bad relationship. It was because I hadn’t had that conversation and I felt really awful about putting them in a position where they would find out about this and then have to speak while they trying to navigate what my transition out would look like. So I think pushing back is something we don’t always think we have the power to do in that dynamic when you’re applying for a job, but it is a two-way street. You want it to be a good fit for you as much as they want it to be a good fit for them.

Ephraim: Okay. So now follow up and jump to the next thing because you talked about pushing back, let’s discuss negotiations for salary. So you’ve gone to the interview. They’re offering you the position. Let’s talk about negotiating the salary that you want and that you believe that you’re worth. And I know how difficult that can be, but it’s even more difficult for female employees. The data tells us that women make 27% less than men at the same job in the nonprofit sector. So, Mimosa, how can you negotiate for a salary that meets your personal budgetary needs and doesn’t undervalue what you bring to the organization?

Mimosa: I mean, this is where you’re waiting for so many different things to align. First, you have to benchmark and you have to figure out what are the ranges. I know that there’s a lot of pushes for job descriptions to show what they pay right now, but that still hasn’t become a practice that everyone employs. So I think in today’s climate, it’s fair to ask that question even in the application process yourself before waiting till you get to the end, before you start that conversation. I think knowing your worth is partly knowing what the job is valued at within your organization and within the industry, but also what you are bringing to the table. And one advice that someone had given me very young was that when you’re transitioning to a new role, is your best negotiations skill practice? So they said no matter what ask, right? Because one of the reasons that people cite that women don’t make more money is because they don’t ask.

So let’s eliminate that as one of the steps as to why women don’t make the same money and ask. And it doesn’t always have to be monetary either, right? If, if you’re looking for flexibility on where you work from on vacation days, on personal days, on, you know, different setups, I think that there’s a lot of room for negotiation that doesn’t have to be the financial aspect of it, but there are, you know, vast resources on the negotiation process. I will just say that we tend to undervalue ourselves quite a bit especially in the nonprofit sector, you want to do good and you feel nervous about asking for more money because you’re mindful of where the money’s coming from and the good that you’re trying to do, but you absolutely need a livable wage. So, you know, there’s a delicate balance there and I think that it’s really important to learn to speak to it even if it makes you uncomfortable. The worst that’s going to happen is they’re going to say no, right? Usually when you’re at the negotiation stage, there’s an offer that you’re negotiating through. It’s not just you kind of appending it, so.

Ephraim: Okay. That’s an excellent answer. And I want to follow up with two quick things. One, for those who are on Twitter, I believe the name of the account is Show the Salary or Show the Salary UK. I just don’t remember which one. But in the UK, there is now a movement to have all nonprofit jobs list the salary from the beginning and they are very forward about it. They will actually, on Twitter, call out organizations. This is a great job description and we’d love to push it out to our network, but there’s no salary listed and it’s very important that you list the salary. 

I personally was not . . . I wasn’t even . . . Thank you, Sarah. Show the Salary. So they’re excellent organization, I love what they’re doing. I personally never really thought about it until . . . I believe her name is Lauren Girardin from San Francisco. She, on Twitter would always say, “I have a great job but I can’t post it because I don’t know the salary. I won’t post out a salary.” And since she started that, I also. Anytime I see a salary list, you know, I see a job description. I tell the organization if I know somebody there, list the salary because I’ll find you somebody, but you got to list the salary in advance. So thank you, Mimosa, definitely for bringing that up in terms of negotiating and asking from the outset or at least what we’ll hope organizations start posting. Lisa, negotiating for what you’re worth.

Lisa: Yeah. I was going to say Mimosa covered a lot of what I have been putting in practice since graduate school when my advisor encouraged us to do the same thing. At the point where you have an offer from a potential employer, you have the cards in your hand, they want you, so it does not hurt to ask for what you feel you deserve. And quite frankly, they’ll say, yes, they’ll say no, they’ll meet you in the middle. 

And I agree, it’s not just salary. It’s other benefits. I’ve negotiated sometimes for additional time off to be matched where I’m coming from. Sometimes letting the employer know if this is not lining up from where I am when I was leaving a current position, that would help. Professional development and those types of things to be covered and sometimes those were the things that I would negotiate for if there wasn’t room to move on the salary. And kind of to the point of showing the salary, there are . . . and some organizations that had done this in the past where there are certain and, again, in a bigger organization, there’s like the salary grades and the ranges and it’s very hard for them to get exceptions over that. So that’s where you almost kind of have to be creative and say what else is meaningful to me? You know, is it the flexibility? Is it paying my AFP dues? You know, what kinds of things can you add to make this a happier situation for me?

Ephraim: Excellent. I also saw that what you just said was mirrored by Emily and Anne in the chat just now about asking for vacation. Sarah, negotiations. Talk to me.

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, definitely all of the above for me, you know, I love my data. I love to have data so that I feel like very educated about where I’m coming from and know what I’m going to ask for. So for me, it’s always about kind of going in with having looked at salary, surveys. I’m a member of AFP, and so they put out a great salary report that gives me a great deal in the United States for what is a reasonable expectation for a given role, and certainly there are alternative places you can get salary information and depending on where you’re geographically located, but those kinds of resources and having that really help. 

And I always, before I go into it, kind of have a bare minimum. So I build out my little spreadsheet and I say like, “The salary needs to be at least this. The vacation needs to be at least this.” Like each of those pieces, this is kind of what my minimum of my range is and my, you know, where I’m really trying to get and then that way I can kind of toggle those back and forth. And so maybe they don’t get my salary quite where I really wanted it, but if that vacation is way past where I wanted it, then maybe that becomes an offer I can take. And then having that kind of minimum that I know I’ll walk away is really empowering and helps me feel more confident when I have those conversations about salary negotiations. 

I’ll own that there’s also a bit of privilege and being in a position to be able to say that you’re going to walk away from a job offer at all. And so I want to acknowledge that, but to the extent that you can put yourself in that position and have that kind of empowerment, I find it extremely confidence boosting and brings me from a stronger place. And one other thing I’ll offer is just practicing it out if you need to. If it’s not something that’s comfortable, if it’s not something you’ve done in a while or at all, find a friend, find a mentor, find somebody that you can just role-play it a little bit with and get a little more comfortable with it.

Ephraim: Okay. So both of what you did . . . you know, everything you just said here is extremely helpful. Obviously your spreadsheets . . . I’m data guy, so I love the spreadsheet thing. But certainly the idea of practicing it with somebody or even in front of the mirror, as you might do for a webinar, for example. So, you know, that’s an excellent idea. 

And, Gary, I saw what you wrote in the chat about how do you know if it’s worth your time? I go back to a Mimosa said, ask. You know, you could call the organization. I’m very interested, find out who the recruiter is or whatever company it is and say to them straight up, “What’s the salary?” If it’s below what you need or, you know, your threshold, now you know, you don’t have to take time to go submit the resume and go through the entire interview process, which we know sometimes takes an hour and sometimes takes five months, depending on the organization and how organized they are.

So, Sarah, we’ll start with you to the next phase. We’ve negotiated, we got the salary we want, we’re going to a new job. Now we’re talking transition. So transitioning to a new job is never really easy. You’ve got a lot of unknowns, could be a major stress point for some people. I mean, I know there’s excitement, but you’ve got used in your old place of employment to a certain workflow, working with staff, colleagues, the bosses. What tips do you have for dealing the transition to a new role? A new role, or . . . Sorry, a new organization, really?

Sarah: So I think for me, it was both easier and harder this time with the layoff and transitioning to self-employment than it has been in the past. In the past, I typically been in a position to take a week or two completely off in between jobs when I’ve left one intentionally. And so knowing this is the date that is my last day at this organization and I’ve got a ramp up to say goodbye to everybody and close out my projects and all of that. And then I know I have a solid, you know, week or two off to just not be working anywhere and do whatever it is that’s restful and helps reset and then knowing there’s a start date on the calendar for a new job that’s kind of a fresh go, that helped and was nice to have. And this time there was just so much uncertainty. There was the shock of leaving, the fact that I didn’t even get to like say goodbye in person to the people I work most closely with and because of the pandemic, we didn’t feel safe even getting together to do our own thing. At some point I think that we still will. Probably all go out as a team and have lunch together or something, but just that sort of unmoored feeling those first few days.

And, for me, I’d already been doing just a little bit of consulting on the side under someone else’s umbrella. And so I was sort of just slowly like ramping that up and doing a bit more with that consultant. And I’m fortunate that I have a pretty extensive network of folks in the consulting space. So I have a few different ones who were kind of giving me small projects. So I was just keeping my toes dipped in the water while I figured out if I was applying for a new role or just leaning all the way into building my own practice. And so there wasn’t really a fresh start. There wasn’t a transition moment. And I didn’t create one for myself. And so it was just this kind of slow thing. And in the middle of the pandemic, being completely at home in my last role and now being completely at home for the work I do now, for me, it was just this kind of slow roll. And in some ways that was easier and in some ways, you know, it still feels a little bit funny, this far in that, you know, is this settled? Is this what’s real now? Is this how this all works now?

Ephraim: Lisa, transitioning to new role.

Lisa: Yeah. So, you know, same as Sarah mentioned, I think the idea of taking some gap time, whether it’s days or weeks is critical and I feel kind of in that same realm of self-care, I think it’s making sure that you have a strong support network around you because when you are going through a transition, you’re learning new coworkers, a new supervisor, new donors, new volunteers. There’s a lot going on. And to have someone outside the organization to speak with, whether it’s friends or family, you know, other colleagues that you trust in confidence, or quite frankly, this is actually something I’ve had the opportunity now in my practice to work with some clients on, is that coaching through a job transition. So I would encourage you could, even if you wanted to have someone that was a more unbiased in a way it’s almost kind of like when you look at therapy for your mental health and want to talk with someone about what’s going on in your day-to-day life who is not biased in the outcome and they’re just there to support you and help you sort through it, kind of in that same way, you know, working with a fundraising coach who can look at what you’re trying to accomplish in your new position and what do you want to achieve in onboarding to really support that as well. So I really feel like just having someone to lean on no matter what that looks like.

And I think the other thing too, is also remembering that a transition doesn’t happen overnight. I will never forget one of my early supervisors in my career. It was about the six month mark and I said something like, “Oh, I really feel like I’m starting to get the flow.” She’s like, “Yeah. It really takes like a year for you to feel that you get the whole flow of the organization, what’s happening.” Especially right now, our calendars are not what they normally are with events, and meetings, and activities like they are. So I would almost say even in this environment, it will take you even longer than a year to really feel like you’ve leaned into and settled into that job transition. So to give yourself a little grace in that too. It’s going to be tough. There are going to be hard days. You might make mistakes. It’s okay. It really is.

Ephraim: Give yourself grace. There’s so many great tips and advice going on here, three words really give yourself grace unbelievably important in this and when we’re talking about transitioning and layoffs. Mimosa, transitions.

Mimosa: Yes. I will say two points because everyone’s covered all these great points already. The first is I really think, you know, in my current role, I was in it for six months before the pandemic hit and then I was working from home. So the transition advice that I would typically give is different now because it’s different to learn about a culture of an organization when you’re meeting on Zoom and it’s different to get to know people that you might have come across in the copy room or getting coffee, you know, especially if you’re in a, of course, not working for yourself, but in a place of employment. So my first advice would be try to create relationships outside of set Zoom meetings because Zoom meetings always think to have a purpose, and it’s not the best way to get to know someone, especially if you’re in a new role.

So if you set aside some time for, you know, a 30-minute coffee that you make in your home, but you share with someone and just chat with them, it really gives you that opportunity to create those informal relationships that I think are the ones that serve you the best in a workplace because they become your allies and they’re the people that you can work with in different ways. And the second I’ll say is I’m really learning to, you know, when you’re new to a role, asking questions and listening, right? You want to ask directed questions. So you want to really be mindful of, you know, not just creating those relationships, but getting to know what the organization has done. I think a lot of the times when you are at mutual place, you have these ideas that organizations might be like, “We already tried that.”

You know, so before, you’re kind of in that place where you’re pushing through new ideas and things, really getting to understand what’s been done to date. And, again, I will say that I feel like that informal relationship building gives you the most information. And, you know, also creates a culture that you feel collegial and you want to . . . you get more excited about your work when you have friends at work. So I think it builds a culture, which just this day and age is so hard to do. So, you know, I feel a lot of people have said everything feels more transactional now. So looking for ways to remove the transactional piece.

Ephraim: Excellent. For all the fundraisers out there, if fundraising is about building relationships, it’s also in the office itself with your colleagues and coworkers as Mimosa said, unbelievably important for you to be able to fit in and understand the culture and transition well into the new job. Last question and then we’re going to go to Q&A. And Lisa, we’re going to start with you. Could you please share one key piece of advice with our audience as it relates to layoffs, transitions, negotiations, and what we discussed up until now?

Lisa: Yeah. I think other than everything we’ve already covered, it’s trust the process and realize this is a journey. And someday this will be part of a story that you look back and share with others. And it is hard in this society of instant technology and instant gratification to have to wade through this and wait, but really, and truly that’s . . . when I’ve reflected on trusting the process and focusing on I am where I’m supposed to be and I’m just going to keep plugging along and the right match will come along and the right match did come along for me and being offered consulting work, which then led to my practice. So it is hard though. It is very hard and it’s okay. And I do want to be transparent about that. There were a lot of tough days going through this.

Ephraim: Trust the process. Excellent. Sarah, one key piece of advice.

Sarah: So I’ll just go back to my standby, right? It’s about building and cultivating a strong network and good relationships within the field and within your personal life so that you have that support structure in place, both to help you with emotional processing when things go wrong or difficult as well as to help you find the next move and get through that process with some support.

Ephraim: Excellent, Mimosa.

Mimosa: It is going back to a point I made earlier, which is apply for that job even if you don’t think you fit all the requirements. You’ll be surprised at what you might be able to do.

Ephraim: I’m going to echo what Mimosa just said. I remember that period and seeing job descriptions where I’d go, “No, I can’t. I can’t because I don’t have enough or I’m not the right fit based on the job descriptions.” But Mimosa, 100%. Apply. Everyone. Find the right job, get out there and apply. So I’m going to look in the Q&A. I’m going to answer . . . There was a question that came in earlier and I did see it also in the chat. In terms of moving from nonprofits to for-profit and from for-profit to nonprofit. So I can talk for 30 seconds about my personal experience. 

After I got laid off, I actually made a decision that I wanted to move into the high tech field. And so I moved from nonprofit into the for-profit world. And I can tell you two things. I actually did a lot of preparation in advance because I knew the question I was going to get in every interview was, what do you know about the business world? You worked in nonprofits, you guys know nothing about business world, you’re not organized, you’re not . . . And I can tell you here’s the answer I gave and you’re all welcome to use it. 

First of all, I have an MBA. So it wasn’t as if I was coming with no business background, but okay. And I had been a CEO of a nonprofit. So I had a little bit, but that wasn’t the issue. I sat in one company which had 60 workers and I turned to the person who was interviewing me and I said, “Could we just look, turn our chairs around and face the workers?” And I said, “You have a communications team of five, marketing team of five, you have salespeople, PR, middle management.” I said, “I did all their jobs as one person and I bet you, I had better results by myself year over year than your entire team did year over year if you’d like to compare and match up the data.” That was enough. And that was my answer to everyone who moved. 

It’s the skills that you can transfer. It doesn’t matter what sector you worked in. You’ve got transferable skills, let that come across in the interview. If you’re moving the opposite way from for-profit to nonprofit, well, in the nonprofit sector we assume if you’re moving from for-profit, you must have great business experience and a huge network and you must know all the rich people and the big CEOs, then yay, come work for us. It’s going to be a little bit different as everybody here on this call can tell you. The pay is going to be a quarter to a third less than what you’re used to in the for-profit world.

It may be a little bit more disorganized. You may be wearing more than one hat. I don’t know anybody want to tell me, what’s the most hats you’ve worn at a job? I can think I was wearing six or seven at one job at a time. So the move can be done. You just have to know what you’re getting into. And I will echo what the panelists have said, get in touch with your network. Ask them what it’s like in the for-profit sector, ask them what it’s like in the nonprofit sector. Get an idea before you make that jump. In terms of . . . I want to throw this to Mimosa. Working with recruiters, would you suggest that people who are looking for their next job work with recruiters? Yes or no?

Mimosa: Yes and no, depending on where the opportunity’s coming from, right? I think the benefits of working with a recruiter is you can ask them questions and that that’s what they want too because they are trying to provide a service to their clients. So they are looking for the best people. It’s your opportunity to really almost get insider knowledge about a role before you’ve even applied or through the interview process. So in those ways, I think it can be really beneficial. I think the hard part is it is a middleman. So you’re getting the message from a third party and it might be a little bit harder to get to know the organization, but, you know, it’s not up to you whether if the job you’re looking for is looking through a recruiter or not. But the recruiters are there for the organizations and not, per se you. So, you know, if that’s the channel you have to go through, make it work for you the best you can and still keep applying for things on a direct level as well if you can.

Ephraim: Good. I think it was Lisa who earlier mentioned about Google is your friend and, you know, googling. Well, the truth is if you’re going through a recruiter, you can vet the organization in advance and that person knows them well enough that you can get the information that you might not have found on Google. Lisa . . . Just give me one second. I’m just looking here. Can you also talk about, you know, and I’ll ask the same question because it came up more than once. Can you talk about recruiters please and using them or not using them in your experience?

Lisa: Yeah. I personally haven’t worked with recruiters too much in my career. I mean, I kind of like Mimosa said, sometimes the organization’s decided to work with one and they’ve reached out to me, and so you do kind of have that middle person experience. But then I think, and I saw it, some of this had come up in the chat, you know, we had a couple of people express that it’s been some time since they’ve been in the job market or then they’d gone through a job search. 

So to that point, you might want to seek out someone who, again, and I know some recruiters do provide this service to individual clients, so not just to organizations, but that are willing to work with you and to coach you and prepare you for interviews. So it’s kind of taking it from the other angle. I mean, it would be a little bit of an investment on your part, but if you feel that that would be helpful to get you to a point where you can walk into these interviews with confidence and, again, have somebody from an outside perspective, look at your resume and suggest if there are changes that might need to be made that would improve that or work with you on some of the tough interview questions and helping coach your responses through that, I mean, honestly, I think if you find a value in that, I don’t see any harm in it.

Ephraim: Excellent. Last question before Steven wraps it up, this is for you, Sarah. Cover letter to your resume. Yay or nay?

Sarah: Oh, absolutely. I’m a big fan of the cover letter. When I’ve been on the other side of the table, cover letters would tell us a lot, especially since I was often hiring in copywriting roles where it was a big deal to be able to write really well. But I think, you know, the cover letter is really your chance to tell your story. You know, the resume’s got all the stats, but that cover letter really says why you’re passionate about them. I always look for it to be personalized enough that I know that they’re looking at this particular organization and not just sending me the same form letter that they’ve sent every single place that they’ve applied to. And it’s your chance to really highlight one or two special things. I know there was some stuff in the chat earlier about maybe it’s a volunteer role that’s the most relevant thing, and so maybe that doesn’t stand out the way you want it to on your resume and the cover letter lets you get that right front and center to them and say, “I have the super relevant experience and maybe you didn’t pick up on it in my resume, but I get to tell you that detail. I want you to know right here.” So definitely do the cover letter. Make it good.

Ephraim: So I can certainly echo what Sarah just said about personalizing the cover letter, for sure to that organization. I’ve done hiring for organizations and the amount of cover letters I’ve read that I know they sent it out to every other employer and it’s the exact same thing, especially when it says they want to work at, in this case, I think it was the John F. Kennedy Center and I was not doing the hiring for the John F. Kennedy Center. So kind of, you know, read over your cover letters. 

Yeah. The other one I can share very quickly was somebody wrote me, you know, dear, whoever it was, “I am a hardworking, organized, data-driven organized person.” That was their opening sentence. The word organized was in that opening sentence twice. So kind of if you’re going to write, cover letter is a great personalize. Just read it over and I’ll echo what everybody said, maybe have a second pair of eyes read it before you start sending it out to recruiters and organizations. 

We’re going to wrap it up. Many, many thanks, really to Mimosa Kabir, Sarah Willey, and Lisa Chmiola for being here and for joining us and for sharing their expert advice, their tips, best practices. I hope that everybody who attended, you learned a lot here. Steven, I’ll let you wrap things up.

Steven: Oh, listen. That was awesome. Man, that was cathartic and informative. I was just really enjoying because these are four of my favorite people ever. So this was really fun. Ephraim, thanks for putting this together. I mean, thanks goes to you as well. I literally did nothing except hit Start on the Zoom webinar. So thank you to all four of you. And like I said, we’re going to send out the recording. So just be on the lookout for that, you know, maybe share with a friend or a colleague if you think they might find it valuable. And we’ve got some great webinars coming up, like I said, every Thursday, if this is your first session. It doesn’t have to be your last. We got a cool and coming up on strategic planning. If you’ve never done a strategic plan, if it’s your first one, join us. We got Dr. Renee Rubin Ross, another one of my favorites. It’s going to be fun, 4:00 p.m. Eastern next week. Totally free. If you can’t make it, that’s okay. Register anyway and we’ll get you over the recording, even if you don’t attend live. 

So we will call it a day there. Yeah. Look for an email from me. I’m going to share a lot more goodies besides just the recording. So be on the lookout. But we’ll call it a day there. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Ephraim: Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.