Tips for Leveling Up: Part 3


figures-1010678_1280.jpgNote: This is a 3-part series. Catch up on parts 1 and 2.

In July 2015, we sought answers to that “what’s next” question with our Leveling Up professional development event. How does someone with a few years under their belt leverage their connections, skills and experience into their next great role?

We gathered for an evening of answers, ideas, and discussion with Jackie Hanselmann Sergi and Melanie Damm of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm dedicated to placing exceptionally talented leadership at nonprofit organizations. Jackie and Melanie gave us a better understanding of how to position ourselves for success, and the next step in the career of our dreams. Check out our Storify for a tweet-by-tweet recap.

After the event, we realized we still had so many questions! We followed up with with Melanie and Jackie who were gracious enough to answer a few lingering questions. In fact, we got such fantastic information, we’re creating a 3-part blog series out of it. Welcome to Part 2!

What factors should someone consider when deciding to leave their current position?

It’s always best to be stolen away from one job to the next. Our best advice is to have a strategic exit plan when you know it’s time to go, but don’t quit your job without another role lined up. Just because you’ve had enough from your job (and we’ve all been there!), it’s always important to be thoughtful about the timing for your transition to a new role.

In terms of knowing when to quit your job, there are plenty of ways to identify this. Maybe you’ve stopped growing and developing professionally or feel stagnant in some other way. Maybe there are other factors like your co-workers, manager, or specific responsibilities that fill you with dread each day and you’re stressed out. However there may also be upsides to staying in your role: familiarity, opportunities for raises or promotions, or needing to have a long-term role listed on your resume if you’ve skipped around. Re-frame your thought process to try to create a compelling argument for staying at your job for one more year, and see if that helps you lean in one direction or another.

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s time to leave your role but there’s no overwhelming or urgent reason to quit, then check to see if any organizations you admire are hiring, and apply for a couple jobs if they sound interesting- you never know what’s out there!

How do you articulate skills that aren't super traditional? For example, I read an article recently about how the ability to bring a multi-stakeholder group or team together to complete projects is a top-notch skill in today's marketplace. But that isn't as concrete as being an engineer or graphic designer. What are the best ways to communicate those skills without it sounding a bit hollow; e.g., "innovative team-builder and systems thinker."

Many roles in today’s workplace require soft skills (such as multi-stakeholder facilitation) just as much or more than technical expertise. Employers want to know about your soft skills, but describing yourself as an “innovative team builder” doesn’t actually tell a prospective employer much about you. Again, go back to the “So What?” rule. You’re an innovative team-builder? So what?

Instead, identify specific wins you’ve been able to bring to your organization in the past. For example:

“In my last role I project managed a redesign of our website which required me to get content input from our leadership team, staff, board members, and then coordinate with a graphic design consultant as well as key staff who wrote web copy. We were able to incorporate these changes in under 6 months and within the projected budget. Within three months of our new website launch, online giving increased by 30%.”  

Then identify roles looking for skills that translate well—there are many roles that require different types of interpersonal skills, so look for what they describe in the job description and shape your resume, cover letter, and interview with examples of how you’ve used these skills in your work.  

We hope these tips were helpful. Thanks to Melanie and Jackie of Koya Leadership Partners for sharing their knowledge with us!