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12 Steps to Prepare for Your Dream Job

This blog is part of PCDNetwork’s career in change 2017 series. Click here for information on all the activities, webinars, blogs and ways to participate.

Congratulations. By reading this blog and checking out PCDNetwork, the go-to-hub for global social change, you’ve taken an important step in advancing your social change career. This is the first blog post in our 2017 careerchart3Inspire | Connect| Act career series  designed to give you the tools, information and strategies to build a high impact career. Over the course of the year we will have over 40 blog posts by leading experts and the PCDN team exploring key topics on careers for social good professionals.

You may be ready to jump into the job search full steam or already have been searching for a number of months. However, I want to strongly encourage you to take a few moments to help lay a strong foundation (and ask some key questions) to help make your search as fruitful as possible. To be honest, looking for a new job (or a first job) can be an incredibly elating, fun and creative process. It can also be disheartening, frustrating and depressing. Being on the job market, is akin to being an actor, where you may or may not be confident in your own performance, but ultimately the decisions about whether or not you get the job is subject to the approval of others. Moreover, for many job postings there may be hundreds of applicants, many of whom are equally nice and talented as you’re competing for the same role. Thus, not only are you often trying to compete against a whole slew of top tier candidates, but also you need to convince yourself you’re capable, worthy and can do the job.


Here are 12 key steps to best prepare for finding your dream job:


1) Let go out of the notion of the perfect job – While it is important to think about what is the dream job in reality very few jobs are perfect. Each job can have its challenges, whether an overly bureaucratic environment, unstable funding, or lack of space for creativity. Instead of focusing on the dream job as some ideal opportunity, spend some serious time thinking about what are the key factors you want to see in a potential new job. It is essential to take time to really know yourself and reflect on what sectors do you want to work on, what is your skill set, your personality, etc. For instance, you dream of working for the UN but you thrive in highly creative environments that gives you lots of flexibility for self-expression. You might be better suited for a smaller organization where you have more room for self-growth than a huge bureaucratic and very regulated environment.


a) Some key things to explore is what type of change do you hope to effect in your job? For example do you want to change policies at a particular level, work with grassroots population on health, etc.

b) Think about your priorities. Do you want stability, adventure and/or uncertainty – For your personal sanity do you need an require constant change and adventure, thus you might lean to more of a startup environment or new organization where there may be a lot of chaos but opportunity to shape things. Or do you want stability and require a paycheck and benefits, thus you may lean towards more stable environment? Neither is right or wrong, it’s a matter of finding your match.


2) Contribute Value to the World – Think about in your life and career how can you make sure you’re contributing value. For example you might look into volunteer opportunities where you can provide benefit to others, while also helping to increase you skills and connections. Think of what you can do today to bring positive impact in the world and keep this as part of job search. Although seeking a job can seem like a selfish process (because we all need to pay our bills), try to approach this more as a way of what can you contribute to the world and adopt this mindset.

3) The world of work is changing – It is important to realize that in 21st century economy, many people will not have a single career at one employer or even in one sector. It is becoming increasingly common in many countries in the world for people to regularly switch sectors or employers (of course this varies by region). For example, I started off in nonprofits, worked in academia and I am now in social entrepreneurship. I know many people who started in business and then have moved to nonprofit, or from government to for-profit. The range of the number of jobs people have in their lifetimes vary greatly but it is clear that the job market is radically changing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who were born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.8 jobs by 48. For millennials this number is much higher as they are tending to change jobs and even sectors much more rapidly. According to futurist Rohit Talawar, CEO of Fast Future, millenials may have up to 40 jobs in their life.

It is clear the nature of work is radically changing and for many (of course not all as perhaps doctors, civil servants and some positions will still likely have more stable career tracks) and to be aware of this and how this is being operationalized in your sector and country is key.

4) Get Your Ducks in Row – A job search is often more a marathon than a sprint. Make sure you have systems in place for tracking potential employers of interest, key contacts you want to reach out (and once you have), jobs you’ve applied for (including saving the original job description. There is nothing worse than actually getting an interview for a job and then finding out you can no longer find the original description). There is no one system for doing this all, but it may be as simple as setting up a tracking system in Google Docs or Excel with a list of potential employers you want to reach out to, or keeping a file of interesting jobs in Evernote, Trello or other tracking systems. It is worth spending time up front to make sure you have a system setup that works for you before you get too deep into the job search.

5) Think big picture but take small actions – Finding a job can be an overwhelming task. Take some time to regularly think big picture about what type of change do you want to see in the world, what type of skills do you have, where are the potential openings. But, also don’t get lost in the clouds. Break down the job search into tangible and concrete actions. Instead of getting overwhelmed saying I need to get a new job in the next month. Start with concrete actions you can take each week, with realistic goals, such as work on my resume (we will have an entire month on resume writing as part of our career series), join a new professional network (we will have an entire month), research potential employers, reach out to 5 contacts, etc. The small actions will add up to big results for most people.


6) Do Your Homework – In exploring potential career tracks make sure to do your homework. Spend time reading about key trends in the sectors that interest you. For example, if you want to build a career in tech and social change, read key blogs (see our resource guide and ones such as Irevolutions, Tech Change, Echoing Green, Ashoka, LinkedIn for Good, Bob Spoer Chief Entrepreneur for People Search at Ashoka , books, follow people on Twitter and Medium, etc. Explore what are the key areas that are growing and where employers are desperately seeking talent or likely to need more talent in the next few years.


7) Develop new skills – The day of finishing one’s education and having a stable job for life is coming to an end. In the 21st century, people will need to see learning and skills building in many sectors as a life long process to both stay engaged in the world and competitive in the job market. Try to adopt a mind-set of learning and staying up to date through various means such as higher education, MOOCs, self-learning, peer to peer work. Think about the key skills needed for the 21st century including soft skills such as empathy, communication, teamwork, as well as technical skills in your particular sector area.


8) The World needs Change – The 21st century is confronted with a host of significant challenges that need change makers to help confront and solve problems. Forced displacement, climate change, inequality, access to energy, Internet Access, improving health, gender equality, are all issues in need of radical improvement if there is to be hope for a more equitable, just and sustainable world. The good news is there are now ecosystems of amazing organizations and people around the globe working on radical and positive change. These range from PCDNetwork, to the bB Corporation Movement (over 2,000 benefit corporations that have embedded social good into their missions and operations), to impact-hub-logoImpact Hub (a global network of coworking spaces focused on social impact) to networks such as Toniic (focused on advancing impact investing), Opportunity Collaboration (an amazing yearly convening of changemakers focused on poverty reduction), to Net Impact (focused on business for good) net-impact-logo. As part of your career development, find the people and organizations that align with your goals (we will have a whole month in our career series on networking).


9) Scan the Horizon on a regular basis – Please, please start today to regularly scan job openings (but don’t rush too apply until you’re fully read, see the upcoming sessions in our career series). Building in time every day (even if only 10 minutes) or every week is critical to scan current job openings. Even more important is looking beyond the usual sectors or organizations one may normally explore. For example if you’re interested in social change, many people might look at openings in foundations, nonprofits, which can be wonderful places to find employment. But many people may not look at B Corporations or similar movements where business and social good go hand in hand, and having a tremendous positive impact. The #1 recommendation we have about scanning the horizon is spend significant time with PCDNetwork’s World’s Top Meta List of Job Sites/Resources in Social Change.

Look up all the resources in the list and find the ones that have job openings in areas of interest. Then regularly visit the sites, follow them on social media or sign up for their newsletters. Of course following PCDNetwork and staying informed on the amazing job and fellowship opportunities posted on our platform is essential.

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10) Build Your Network – As part of our career series we will have an entire month dedicated to how to build and leverage your network. By some estimates 80% of all jobs are filled through connections. This doesn’t mean that you can get a job if you don’t apply. But if you don’t have a network that can vouch for your when you do apply, getting a position can be much more difficult. Networking can be fun if it does with authenticity and based on service and not just taking. Start thinking about whom you know in your network, what are networks you can join, etc. Also many people find great benefit by having a career buddy or two. This can be a friend or colleague who is also job searching and during the process with whom you meet on a regular basis, strategize, share success stories and challenges


11) Think about Money – While many people pursue social change careers out of a desire to positively impact and contribute to the world, it is still important to think about salaries. This is especially true if you’re pursuing higher education and have substantial debt. For example the Institute for College Access and Success found in the US in “Seven in 10 seniors (68%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt, with an average of $30,100 per borrower. “

This doesn’t include graduate school. Thus, if you’re monthly loan payments are $1000 US or more or you have family obligations thinking about the salary that you need is critical. This may mean you may not be able to explore job opportunities in particular sectors or be more selective. Of course a job is about much more than just a salary, and thinking about impact, overall work environment, work/life balance, benefits are all important. With the Internet it is possible to often find general salary ranges for jobs through sites such as or Moreover, talking to peers, university career centers and mentors you can get a sense of ranges. We will have sessions on salary negotiations as part of our career series. Stay tuned for more recommendations.

12) Look at Social Media – Social media is becoming increasingly important in a digitally connected world. Many employers will look at social media accounts when reviewing potential candidates. These platforms can also be a wonderful way to show your expertise, connect with new people. We will be providing recommendations on how to best use social media in our career series. For now we recommend you try to educate yourself on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, by reviewing interesting accounts, reading their help guides, and beginning to think if your own accounts reflect what an employer might want to see.

Here is the full checklist (feel free to download and use this to get your search started)

Job SearchChecklist

Please add your own suggestions of what you’ve found most useful to best prepare for the job search and stay tuned for our amazing 2017 series of activities to help support you in your search for building a high impact career. Check out our January 2017, webinar


To see details on our full career series click here pcdnchart3





Great blog Craig, more like notes for anyone who is starting job search (such as myself in the next few months).

I really liked the point around contributing value to the world, and seeing how one can do two things – work for positive change but also enhance their skills. I also think that one must find their passion within the field of social change, and try to deliver value there, as passion automatically drives great output and quality of work. Also the resources mentioned towards the end of the blog are very useful as always, thanks!

    Profile Photo by Craig Zelizer

    Super thanks for your comments and your amazing work to help scale PCDN. Would appreciate if you could let others know about our career series and also PCDN.

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