it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. For a decade, I’ve worked in a field that while highly coveted, is also extremely demanding and toxic. Everyone thinks the job is glamorous — think entertainment, high level politics, or Madison Avenue advertising. But frankly, after a decade it’s grueling and just not worth it anymore. I’ve been trying to find a way out for a few years and always met with, “Why would you leave? You have the dream job!”

Through the pressure, attention, and work-life “balance” I have somehow managed to find myself a healthy romantic relationship, and just don’t envision having the life I want while having this career. By reading Ask a Manager, and a fair amount of therapy, I’ve landed an amazing new job. I’m so excited to begin this next chapter of my life, and even managed to navigate a graceful exit. A number of people have remarked they are “sad but not surprised to see me leave” and commented that the ways I brought attention to chronic issues in the field has been eye opening and that losing my talent is a loss for the field. While it’s too late for me, I feel I’m leaving the field in a better place than when I started. And my new employer is THRILLED to have someone with my experience and clout on their team. After years and years of pressure and demands of never being good enough, I feel released and ready to healthily share my talents with the world.

2. I negotiated hard when I was looking for my current non-profit grantwriting job. I wanted a minimum of $60,000 (for an individual contributor role), and I went on several interviews with employers who wanted to pay me $45,000, with a promise of a promotion. Others balked at that number. $60,000 at a nonprofit might seem high, but I did my market research and knew it was possible, and I knew I was good at my job. I also knew that – as a single woman in my early-mid 30s – a smaller salary would lead me to look for my next job in 2-3 years instead of staying for 4-5.

When I interviewed with my current organization, they asked me on a phone screen if $55,000 would be enough. I responded that “$60,000 is the amount that will allow me to stay at a place for many years – which is my goal- but I understand that benefits also have monetary value and would be open to negotiation.” Then, they really liked me in subsequent interviews, and my now boss convinced the board to up the salary to $60,000.

I am SO happy I negotiated, because human services got hit really hard during the pandemic, and I’m not going to get a meaningful raise anytime soon. The lesson I learned: You can negotiate at nonprofit! and you should think about how much money you will need to live in 2-3 years, not just as soon as you start! (Also, I included numbers here so that people can know what nonprofits can and will pay, because there’s a lot of salary obfuscation in the industry because you’re supposed to work “for the mission, not the paycheck!” Eyeroll.)

3. About two years ago I left my nonprofit job to stay home with my daughter. I was so worried about going back to work after a gap in my resume, especially because my last job wasn’t related to my field. Pre-pandemic I started applying to nonprofit jobs again but I wasn’t getting anywhere-no interviews, canned rejections, nothing.

I took a break from applying and then this fall read every article of yours I could find about cover letters and rewrote mine. I’m happy to report that I received a job offer from the first place I applied to, and will be starting a part-time nonprofit job next week which fits perfectly with my family situation right now. I even used your advice to interview while pregnant with my second baby! I’ll be working until February when I take maternity leave, then going back part time. The pay isn’t quite what I hoped for, but the hours are perfect for us now.

4. I’ve been waiting and hoping to be able to share this great news with you!

I started job-hunting in February but was derailed by the pandemic. I finally got back to it a month ago. I followed AAM’s advice on my résumé and cover letter. I thoroughly researched each company and the people I’d be interviewing with. I even read testimonials managers had written for other people on LinkedIn, because that told me what they value in a colleague. I also spotted connections to a couple of people in my network and asked them to put in a good word for me. From five applications, I got two interviews.

I did intensive interview prep. Your guide’s advice is very applicable for the video interview era; for example, the reminder to try on my interview clothes the night before led to me setting up my video call backdrop the night before as well. I wrote up four pages of bullet points: answers to common questions, my desired salary range, and my own questions. I practiced saying them out loud so I would sound more natural. During the call, I had the job ad, my document, and a blank document for notes all open in front of me—much easier in a video interview than in person!

For references, I called up three people I’d worked with in different capacities and gushed about the job so they would share my enthusiasm and eagerness. I gave the hiring company a skill-based summary of my working relationship with each reference: “Jane supervised me at Llovely Llama and is extremely familiar with my llama grooming skills.” Then I sent the reference a heads-up and a gentle prompt: “Hi Jane, Vincent from Llamatastic will be emailing you. The role calls for a lot of rare breed grooming, so I hope you can speak to my abilities in that area.” With this guidance, the references reinforced what I’d said in interviews and emphasized how my experience makes me the best person for the role.

I prepped similarly for the offer negotiation and wrote out the sentence: “Can you go up to [top number I gave in my initial salary expectations]?” At the appropriate time, I read it out and stopped talking. They said yes immediately! So I’m getting a 20% raise over my current pay and have a mental note to ask for more at my first annual review. My partner just got promoted to a managerial position (double good news!), and I think my determination to ask for what I’m worth, plus the tips I learned from you, inspired him to negotiate for more of a raise than he would have otherwise.

I’ve been treated so badly by my current job. I felt useless because I couldn’t handle my impossible workload and worthless because my manager never gave me positive feedback. Job-hunting can be stressful, but interviewing for other jobs has given me back my professional confidence—even before I got an offer, I felt so much more appreciated and valued just from people wanting to talk to me! And having to talk myself up in interviews helped me appreciate and value myself too. I’m still nervous about the new job, but I think it’s going to be great.

I encourage anyone who’s feeling trapped or miserable to try looking for something better. There ARE open jobs, there ARE companies that are hiring and paying well, and you DO have options.

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. caro*

    LW #4 – I love the idea of teeing up your references with topics that align with the key job requirements. Nice work and congrats!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I always has my reference-ees to call me whenever they think I might be getting a call for the job.
      They don’t have to call me every time they give my name out, but if they’re getting close, I want them to call me.
      I ask them to tell me about the job description, about the interview, what it was they forgot to say, what they think they’re most nervous about in terms of qualifications and skills. Also, I ask them, and I think about on my own, what sorts of things I think the position would need most.

      Then I make sure to emphasize the things I know about them that make them a good candidate.

      1. SarahKay*

        This is such a good idea and not something I’d thought of asking when I’ve been a reference for someone. I shall definitely remember this in future, thank you.

      2. Southern Ladybug*

        That’s a great list – I usually ask for the PD etc. I really like your additional questions to be a valuable reference.

      3. JobHunter*

        I had one reference ask for a table that compared the listing requirements with my qualifications side-by-side. I just started giving that out to all of my refs. They all said they appreciated it!

    2. Massmatt*

      Yes, both prepping your references with things to focus on AND giving some insight on the reference sheet as to what each person can talk about are EXCELLENT.

      I am probably not alone in simply alerting my references that someone may be calling them and what the job is but that’s kind of it, and my list of references is just that, simply names, positions, and contact info. And now that feels kind of dumb! I will steal these ideas in a future job search for sure.

      Congrats to all the LW’s!

  2. TheIdealEmployee*

    LW #4 – I love your last two lines. It’s what I tell everyone around me but never myself. Thank you!

  3. nonprofit writer*

    #2, congrats and you are totally right–$60K is a completely appropriate salary for a grantwriter position (especially if you are in a major city) and I’m so glad you fought for it! Thank you for including salaries–it’s so important in the nonprofit world to know what is possible and not undervalue yourself.

    1. Nonprofit OP*

      I live in a medium-large, non-Chicago midwestern city, and nonprofits here tend to pay pretty closely to what they pay in larger cities, but we have a lower cost of living. It’s great! The problem lies in the fact that my partner and I want to move to the Southwest and the jobs I would qualify for in the next few years pay the same as I make now. I’ve been contemplating a shift to government generally, but if we moved, I’d definitely need to make the shift.

      1. Maxie*

        How is the cost of living in those cities compared to where you live now? How would your lifestyle change in a new city based on the salaries they pay for the work you do? I’ve moved to different parts of the country several time in my adult life and one of the things that was huge plus for me was moving from places with winter to places without winter. That was huge improvement in my life.

        1. Nonprofit OP*

          Housing is slightly cheaper in one of our target cities and taxes are lower, but we live in a pretty affordable area already. There are definitely some federal job opportunities in the new location, more than in our current location. My partner is a veteran and a former federal employee, so we have options there, too. For me, slightly less money would totally be worth less winter. Covid has brought into sharp focus how much winter affects my happiness – I’ve just lived with it my whole life, so I haven’t considered how unhappy I am.

          I used to be in academia in the humanities, so the fact that my job is so portable now (precisely the opposite of academia) is so freeing. My partner is also a civil engineer, so we both have these easily portable, practical careers. I went to a bougie college as a first gen college student, and all of my friends have cool and/or elite careers that I find myself jealous of. But there is something freeing about being in a partnership where we have low stress, recession resistant jobs.

  4. CM*

    LW#2, that’s a great way to express it, that “$X is the salary that will allow me to stay here long-term, which is my goal.” I’ll remember that one.

    1. Nonprofit OP*

      OP here – this is really good language to use in any industry where tenures aren’t meant to be long. Fundraising in particularly has a lot of turnover because there just aren’t a lot of ways to advance unless you go somewhere else. Also, I find (but cannot, like, scientifically confirm) that you will make significantly more money in non-profits if you move than if you advance internally, especially in mid-career roles. For example, I expect my next job to pay between $70-80,000, I would never get that much money with a title change from my current job. The only way I’d get that much money is if I took over my boss’s job, which is 2 steps up from mine.

      I also kind of think it’s just the reality of the post-2008 job market – you have to job hop to make money and get the responsibility before landing somewhere longer term. It’s really hard to move from entry-level and 1-5yr experience jobs to a 10yr experience job in the same company, unfortunately.

      1. SansaStark*

        I also can’t scientifically confirm, but in my 15 years of experience in/with nonprofits you almost always have to leave your organization to make those $10,000-$15,000+/mid-career jumps .

        I really love that wording about staying long-term! It’s really honest but in a way that’s tactful and shows them how they’ll benefit, too.

      2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        My partner and I recently had separate conversations with higher-level managers who bluntly said, “Your career advancement path may take you out of this company, we understand that, and we want to help you build skills to achieve your goals, even if we end up not being able to keep you.” My partner’s manager said “I’m loyal to my team, not to the company” and mine said “Let’s be real, I don’t expect to retire here”. I’m in media and my partner’s in tech. So the assumption of job-hopping isn’t just a nonprofit thing, and I’m glad managers are finally willing to talk about it openly and not see it as a threat.

  5. 3DogNight*

    These are so amazing, and so uplifting to read, thank you for sharing! I really like the practical tips, too!

  6. WFH2020*

    Just like #2, I negotiated my salary for the first time ever and got it. (thanks to AAM)

    And just like the OP, OMG I am so glad I did because raises will be on hold for at least two years due to Covid-19.

    Congratulations OP2!

  7. LW#4*

    I’m happy to report that two weeks in, the new job is indeed great! I love the work, the company culture is welcoming and functional, and there are genuine paths for advancement. About once a day I mentally compose a letter to my ex-boss telling him how much I hated working for him and how much happier I am now, and then I mentally bin it and go on with my life. I expect that urge will fade with time. I’m so grateful to AAM and the commentariat for the repeated descriptions of jobs that aren’t horrible; it really helped to counter the voice in my head telling me that I’d never find anything better.

    My partner’s salary negotiations went well too: he asked for a 20% raise and got 15% plus concrete objectives to earn a 5% annual bonus. Assuming all continues well, the total difference to our household income from my new job and his promotion will be enough to pay off the debt we’ve been carrying around for twenty years. If you need motivation to ask for what you’re worth, think concretely about what you can do with that extra money. Especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, one good raise can truly change your life. Ask!

  8. Yet Another Nonprofit Employee*

    Congrats to all LW!

    Re: LW2, I now work at a nonprofit, having made the leap from the corporate world a few years back. I knew the range of what they were offering, so when I got the initial offer—which was lower than my current salary, and also lower than the top of the salary range (but not by much in either case)—I told them, “I love this org, but given my experience, I’d like to ask for $TopRange.” And I got it.

    That relatively small dollar amount bought them years of loyalty (in an org where longevity and relationships matter). And I have to think the hiring manager knew that. I DO love the org and I’m glad to be here. Had the difference been greater, and/or I had been less enthusiastic about the org and its mission, I would have either made more of it or turned down the job. Plus I learned I could, in fact, stand up for what I’m worth.

    Like LW2, I think the key here is knowing what your job typically earns in relationship to your experience; knowing the salary range the org is offering; and holding firm to what you’re willing to take. The difference between $45k and $60k is pretty big; but the gap between $55k to $60k is not that great… ESPECIALLY considering that your grantwriting expertise could bring them in that much or more in your first year alone! Good for you for holding out.

  9. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    So happy to hear everyone’s good news.

    OP2 and OP4—thanks for sharing your strategies! I can see how some of these will work really well for me. I’m in a low-key job search at the moment, but will probably ramp it up early in the new year.

Comments are closed.