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Make It Happen
Career Management and Work-Life Balance

March 2005 number 6

Whether you are actively looking to change your job, have just left, or are merely exploring the possibility, this newsletter can help. It is a supplement to Leaving the Mother Ship, and is designed to share additional suggestions and ideas. Please forward it on to others who you think may benefit!

Editor's note: We are trying to reach a far broader audience. Please forward this issue to all of your friends and colleagues, and encourage them to subscribe. This is a no-spam, no-cost newsletter; we can only grow with your help.

1) Making the move to a non-profit organization
2) Upcoming Speaking Engagements and Media Profile
3) Ask Randall (Updating your resume, How do I know if a job is right for me?)
4) Reader Feedback
5) Career Tutorials and Career Management Action Course
6) Keep Make It Happen Alive

When most people think about their next job, either they think about a step up within their same organization, or a similar job elsewhere. But how many of us have also thought about what it would be like doing something completely different? This month, we will be looking at the issue of job change more carefully, using a move to a non-profit organization as a proxy.

Our next issue will be a special issue on career-related research. Whether you are researching a particular company, putting together a business or financing plan, or trying to decide which industry holds the best opportunities, efficient research and analysis will improve your chances of success - and mitigate your risks. These skills we often develop at school, but quickly they become rusty. Even if they aren't rusty, these skills often aren't focussed in the areas we need them now. Some research of my own: If you know of any web sites or other sources that you would like to share, please pass them along; we are pulling together a short resource directory on the subject.

1) Making the move to a non-profit organization

After progressing with your career for many years, you decide that your next job will be with a not-for-profit organization (NPO). You're excited about contributing to society, and are looking forward to a positive change. What can you expect? How can you translate your "business" skills into this new sector?

You may think that this article isn't applicable to you, as you have no intention of moving to an NPO. This may be true, but on the otherhand, many of the underlying themes are applicable no matter what your next job change may be. Keep an open mind.

First, there is the question of timing: is now the right time to move? Many years ago, I had met a successful executive who shared an interesting philosophy: First you learn, then you earn, then you return. I understood this concept to mean that the better your education (formal and informal), the more that you could earn. The more you earned, the greater you could later return to society. If you stopped your learning too soon, you would not maximize your earnings. And if you stopped your "earning" too soon, you couldn't maximize what you returned to the world. If you buy into this philosophy, then the question of timing becomes relatively important.

Remember that there are multiple paths to the same goal. On one hand, you may be able to move directly into a junior or middle-management position at an NPO, and then slowly grow to a more senior role. Or, you may be able to grow more quickly within your current role (or functional expertise), and then "transfer in" to a senior NPO role directly. Once again, timing and order of operations must be considered.

Let's make the assumption that you've decided that the timing is right, and that you do want to make the change right now.

The second major issue is why an NPO? And why a particular NPO? Maybe you enjoy the time you spend doing volunteer work in the community, and so you decide on doing it on a full-time basis. If this is how you came to your decision - no problem. Just make sure that you do the same due diligence on your prospective NPO employer, as you would do on any other organization.

Depending on the role that you are seeking, some of your experience will be transferable, and some will not. For example, fundraisers play an important role within NPOs. Yet does this role have an analog in the for-profit world? The answer is "somewhat": sales executives, for example, have some of the required experience. But most sales executives are used to selling a tangible product, not a less-tangible set of goals. If your skills are in marketing, finance, or operations, these skills might be a bit more transferable, but don't kid yourself. What is your experience dealing with miniscule marketing budgets? How about volunteers - instead of employees? And financial systems that aren't quite as up-to-date as what you're used to? Under the covers, there are many differences between an NPO and a commercial business:

Non-financial Objectives Are Primary: You’re likely used to a system that focuses on the bottom line. Are you prepared for organizational performance being ranked primarily by non-financial objectives? What impact would this change have on your personal motivation?

Stakeholder Differences: In the corporate setting, the number one stakeholder groups are usually defined to be customers, then variously shareholders, employees, and then perhaps others. We tend to value “focus,” spend most of our time with one or two of these groups, and keep the rest on maintenance mode. NPO weightings are skewed differently, often with the community, regulators, and special interest groups nearing the very top of the list and having real weight. Even if you are hired because of your sharp business sense, to be successful you must be able to successfully juggle this very different set of stakeholders.

Sense of Urgency: Most organizations understand the importance of speed, from the impact of a faster product development cycle on costs, to the impact that faster customer service has on customer retention. In many NPOs, a sense of urgency does not exist to the same extent as in the corporate world. And in some NPOs, attributes such as speed rank far behind attributes such as equity, need, or public accountability.

Personnel Policies: Staff retention and longevity are usually very high for non-profits, regulators, and associations, often because the jobs tend not to be pressured the way corporate jobs are. Unfortunately, in some non-profits, retention is high because there are often poor (or non-existent) personnel policies and practices. Managing volunteers adds another interesting dimension.

When you consider it, in fact, the differences are quite considerable! What can you do to improve your chances of success - and be more effective for the organization at the same time? Here are some ideas:

1) Recognize that to fully leverage your skills, it is possible that your next "full time" role should NOT be at an NPO. For example, if you are looking at an Executive Director position, but have never interacted at the board level in a volunteer capacity, you will likely not be as effective compared to someone who does have that experience. No matter the role you seek, getting some experience first also helps you understand how the "business" of a NPO works: the interplay between service delivery, fundraising, governance, etc. Start getting that volunteer experience immediately by looking for committee and board roles.

2) Industry knowledge: If you are interested in a health-related NPO (eg Hospital, Cancer Society, etc), and your industry experience is in another field, craft a plan to learn the industry. This can be done by volunteering within your chosen NPO "Industry", talking to people within the field, and doing library and internet research.

3) Be realistic with respect to compensation and promotion. Generally speaking, people who work in the industry are motivated by factors beyond just their personal compensation. Is a fat bonus important to you? Will you be satisfied if you do a great job, but you don't get a raise, nor a promotion?

4) Is it possible to do a test drive? Can you "try out" a position, with no compensation, for a period of time? This might mean weekend and evening work, or it might be for a particular project; doing so will help you get a better understanding of the organization. Fortunately, it is very easy to "test drive" a role in an NPO: it's called volunteering.

One of most useful tools for those considering a job change - whether to an NPO or otherwise - is the Gap Analysis Worksheet. In it, you assess the difference between your current job and your new one, on a number of different dimensions. Once these gaps are identified, it is a relatively simple matter to devise a plan to close the gaps.


During the month of March 2005, Randall will be speaking at the following venues. If you know of any other groups who are looking either for a keynote speaker or workshop leader, please contact us at seminars@LeavingTheMotherShip.com. Ask for a copy of our Demo DVD.

  • APEX conference: Schulich School of Business (March 4): Career Planning and Work-Life Balance
  • Canadian Business magazine: Look for us in a two-page article (March 14)
  • CFPL-TV: Leaving the Mother Ship will be featured on their early morning "New Day" show. (March 16)
  • Purchasing Management Association of Canada, Yorke District (March 22): What Next? Positive Perspectives in Career Planning


I haven't updated my resume in many years, and it really doesn't look good: how should I start?

Firstly, this is a call to action for everyone: don't let laziness (or overconfidence) put you in this position. Besides being a tool for a job search, a resume is a useful inventory of your responsibilities and accomplishments; there isn't any reason why it shouldn't be updated whenever your responsibilities change or when you've achieved a new goal.

To answer the question, though, it is important to distinguish between the resume formatting, and the resume content.

Resume formatting: How the resume physically looks is relatively important. Are there any errors on the page (typos, grammar, spelling, etc)? Is it logically and consistently laid out? Are the font formatting choices reasonable and consistent? These are all relatively easy to address. On the other hand, I often see resumes from people with many, many years of experience, that are organized as if they were a new graduate. For example, if your education was more than ten years ago, why have half of the first page taken up by it? Your experience is far more important, and likely more relevant: move your education to the end of your resume.

Resume content: Think about how the resume fits into the context of a job search. What role is it supposed to play? What happens before (and after) the resume gets read? Think about the order of operations:

1) Cover Letter: This is designed to quickly qualify you for the job, and get you past the clerk who is filtering the resumes. So if a job advertisement required candidates to have a Masters in Education, 5 years of teaching experience, and be bilingual, guess what the three major points in the cover letter should be? Unless you have something really unique and incredible, try not to clutter your cover letter with information that doesn't directly qualify you for the position. The letter should not be a summary of your resume! Nevertheless, it is a good idea to demonstrate that you have at least done some research on the company and/or industry.

2) Resume: The resume content has several purposes: to get you the interview, to establish your qualifications as the best fit for the role, and to pique the interests of the interviewer. The best way to think about your resume content is to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer. This person likely must review several dozen (at least!), and decide who to meet. What is it about your prior experience that is most relevant? What would differentiate you from your competition?

3) Interview(s): What you write in your resume will drive some of the questions in the interview. The implication? Every sentence on the resume should invite the question, "so what?" If you can't answer this question for every particular point on your resume, then consider removing it. In the Leaving the Mother Ship workbook, use the unique "Resume Organizer": it is designed to help you pull out the story behind each point on your resume.

How do I know if a particular job is right for me?

You've decided to leave, and start your job search. You prep your resume, go through the interviews, and get offered what seems like a great job. While flattering, how do you know if the job is right for you?

This situation occurs even for those who are not actively pursuing a position off the Mother Ship. For example, your manager wants you to take on additional responsibilities. You are asked to work on a special project for a year or two. Or you have been offered a more senior role in another division. Same issue - how do you know if it is right for you?

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. What factors made you decide that it was time to move on? The same criteria can be used to determine whether the next job is right for you. Unfortunately, most people can't translate their desire to leave into a useful set of criteria. That is where Leaving the Mother Ship comes in: it is filled with criteria that can be used just for this purpose.

The Personal Balance Sheet is usually used to help you set work-life balance. What if each dimension (Community, Family, Physical, etc) were used as acceptance criteria for the new opportunity? Would the questions you ask in the interviews be different? You bet!

The Job Quality Checklist is usually the criteria used to determine when to leave your job. What if each dimension (Fun, Like your colleagues, intellectual challenge, etc) was the filter for acceptance? How the prospective job "rates" on each dimension gives you some very important data.

Throughout the entire book and workbook, each diagnostic tool (Gap Analysis Worksheet, Reality Check Interview Results, etc) can be used in this way. Try it out!


We need your feedback! How have you used the ideas from Make It Happen and Leaving the Mother Ship? Do you have any tips that others would find useful? Let us know your favorite article, and why. And what topics would you like covered in future editions? Let us know at feedback@LeavingTheMotherShip.com.


Career Tutorials: These are two hour, no-cost sessions designed to kickstart the career planning process for those serious about making a change for the better in their life. The evening is highly interactive: people learn more from "doing" things than just passively listening. The focus of the evening is career planning in the context of Work-life balance. Participants leave the tutorial with notes, along with a copy of the Personal Balance Sheet Action Planner. Note: this tutorial is a pre-requisite for the Career Action Management Course.

The dates (and registration information) for the tutorials are always available on the www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com home page. The Tutorials are scheduled on either Tuesday or Thursday evenings starting at 6:30pm sharp. If you liked the book, take the next step and sign-up for the tutorial!

Career Management Action Course: This seven-module course uses an innovative combination of self-paced exercises, private review sessions with the instructor, and an interactive workshop to help drive real change. Course objectives include:

  • To focus your personal career objectives.
  • To define both mid-term career planning and short-term job direction.
  • To identify barriers that prevent you from achieving your goals, and design a plan to address them.
  • To provide practical answers for specific-to-you career challenges. (eg addressing manager feedback, deciding when to change tracks, understanding the role of education, etc.)
  • To start developing a pro-active support network: friends, family, workmates, coursemates, and your manager.
  • To provide a framework for career decision-making in the context of an appropriate work-life balance.
  • To develop more focus, direction and the drive to get things done.

Course details are available at www.leavingthemothership.com/keynotes/index.html#3, or by emailing workshop@LeavingTheMotherShip.com. The workshop by itself can also be delivered to employees as part of a company-sponsored career-planning or outplacement initiative.


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Make It Happen
Copyright 2005 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved.

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