Five Signs You Work in Non-Profit

I’ve worked in non-profit for six months and it’s been fascinating. For instance, we have our own hilariously bad jargon i.e. calling those who haven’t given in years “lapsed donors.” Here is a list of things you experience in the non-profit world.

  • You’re passionate—the type of passion that makes you re-write your letter of inquiry five times.
  • Your office building is jettisoning nails and plaster.
  • You want to make a difference in the lives of those you serve and empower the community. And you need to find a way to say that which isn’t mind numbingly boring.
  • Your co-workers have big dreams. One of mine plans to start a half-way house for recent prisoners. Another wants to build a “free-range” playground. It sounds like free range chicken, but it’s a place for open play where kids can go get dirty like they did in the days before cell phones.
  • You know overhead costs are important. You can’t run your programs if you can’t keep the lights on or pay your staff.

Tip: If you can’t get the building fixed, don’t park in the spot below where the nails are falling. My boss did this and one punctured her tire.

How to Get Through a Stressful Work Week

I’ve spent the past two weeks at work updating a 1,800 row, 18 column spreadsheet. By the time I got to row 300, I wanted to take the computer and wrap it around my boss’s throat (and she’s a boss I like). Luckily, she decided not to have me re-format it, so it could be finished during my lifetime, which made me like her even better. This is a list of tips for when, like me, you’re having a stressful work week.

  • Everyone does it, just don’t do it at the office.
  • Don’t take work home with you. Home is for reading in bed and binge-watching Netflix, not checking your phone every half hour.
  • Do something that relaxes you. For me, that’s a hot bath with lavender bubbles. For my Mom, it’s swimming. Unfortunately for her, it’s 35 degrees out.
  • Remember the things you like about your job. Personally, I like writing grants and updating our Facebook page. Work isn’t eight hours of straight misery. If it is, it’s time to switch jobs.
  • Daydream about your time off. The holidays are almost here. All you’ll have to worry about is fighting your way through the teeming mobs at the airport.

And remember, only 1,500 rows to go. You may want to take a stretch break

Tips for Your First Week at Work

I started my job at Morningside this week. It was like stepping face first into a whirlpool. I wanted to contribute, but I didn’t even know where the office supplies were. Here are some words of wisdom I gleaned from my seven days of employment.

  • Ask questions. It’s awkward, but it’s better than making mistakes. I’ve popped into my boss’s office so many times she must think I’m a jack in the box.
  • Introduce yourself. If you meet someone in the office who you don’t know, stop and say hello. “Hi, I’m so and so. How are you doing?” will do the trick.
  • Enjoy wearing nicer clothes. It’s like playing dress up. Only instead of Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings, now I’m Development Associate from Morningside.
  • If you’re enthusiastic, show it. Personally, I gave a squeal of delight when I got my first business cards.
  • Write stuff down. By the end of the first day I had multiple pages of notes and an ink stain on my pants. But it was worth it when I needed to find my voicemail password later.

Lastly…it’s the weekend, so relax. Become one with the couch.

Interview Tips for Recent Graduates

A couple of weeks ago I landed a job at Morningside, an organization that helps people with disabilities find work. My first thought was, “Yes, I have a plan!” My second thought was, “Oh no I’d better get my answer to them quick or my plan could fly out the window.” Being a recent graduate is scary and one of the scariest parts of it is trying to find a job.

I once applied for a job transcribing and editing recordings of car accidents for insurance companies. I sent my resume and never heard back from them. That’s right; I could not get a job writing down car accidents. This was lucky, as I believe that Morningside will turn out to be a much better fit.

One of the most challenging aspects of job hunting is interviewing. I have composed this list of tips for experienced interviewees that I believe are helpful, but that most people don’t mention.

  • Write down a phone number to call in case you get lost. I got so lost going to my interview with Morningside that I ended up driving up the same stretch of freeway three different times.
  • Don’t sound too rehearsed. After you’ve gone over your notes a lot, you can start to sound robotic. Most people aren’t interested in hiring See-Threepio For one thing, he was always falling apart.
  • Check that your interview clothes are ready a day early. There’s nothing like discovering you have no clean underwear at 10pm the evening before your interview.
  • Try not to wonder why you were turned down too much. Nine times out of ten it’s because you didn’t have the experience. Trust me on this one.
  • Wake up a couple of hours before your interview. This way you’ll have time to do your morning routine. For me, that routine is a cup of tea and a session on my punching bag. It works wonders.

I hope this list gets you the job of your dreams, not writing down car accidents. And remember, the punching bag is also good for dealing with rejection.

Morningside: Employment Landed

Last week, I scored a job at Morningside in Olympia, WA. Morningside is an organization that helps people with disabilities find work in the community. It’s a good cause and one that’s personal for me. Morningside works on debunking negative myths about people with disabilities i.e. that they cannot perform as well on the job. When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and it has never stopped me from performing anything. I graduated high school with a 4.2 and college with a 3.83 G.P.A. I know other people with disabilities who are as smart and capable as those without. One friend, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, was promoted the first week of her new restaurant job.

Morningside is a great organization for me. Not only because I’m passionate about the cause, but because it will teach me a lot. The job runs through AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps emphasizes professional development. I’m going to a three day introductory conference in Portland before I start. They’re putting everyone up in a hotel for a few days and it will be great. I’ve always loved staying in hotels. They’re so clean and they have free shampoo. As a college student and as a recent graduate who is almost completely broke, I take the free shampoo. My hair doesn’t need conditioner otherwise I’d take that too.

Working for Morningside won’t be all fun and games. It’s going to be challenging. There will be times when I’ll want to run around screaming with my arms over my head. But there will be times that make me smile too, so that’s okay. I’m ready to get started.

Forcechange.com: Internship Landed

After a semester’s hard work of scouring the internet for writing positions, I landed an internship at Forcechange.com. The first thing I did when I heard the news was fill out the online acceptance form. The second thing I did was to leap up from my chair and do a happy dance. This happy dance was a disco with a lot of bouncing. If my sister could have seen it, she would have teased me mercilessly. Because that’s what sisters do.

Forcechange.com is a site that publishes petitions for progressive causes like social justice, animal welfare, and the environment. My first petition was an appeal to the mayor of the City of Victoria, trying to get them to stop dumping their raw sewage into the ocean. As you can imagine, raw sewage does not mix well with marine ecosystems. And Victoria currently dumps over 34 million gallons of it into the ocean every day. Not good.

This internship is something I’m excited about doing for its own sake. Even if I wasn’t trying to build up a writing career, I would still want to do it because the causes it works for are important. What I’ve discovered about myself through my semester of job searching is that I don’t want to be in it just for the paycheck. Don’t get me wrong. The paycheck is important. Right now, I’m saving up for my independence.  I live with my mother and I’d like to get my own place. But eight hours a day five days a week is a long time to spend on something I don’t care about.

So my advice to all you new graduates heading out into the world is to try and find something that interests you. That and don’t get too discouraged, it may take a few months but eventually you will land something. And when you do, it’s okay to cut loose and do a happy dance.

Rejection: How to Cope

At some point in your job search you will be rejected. I know. I’ve been rejected by three jobs in five days. Granted, most of those were nice rejections. This may seem like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. The people I spoke with thanked me for being thoughtful and well researched, which I appreciated. University of California at Irvine, one of the MFA programs I applied to, even sent me a handwritten note saying please keep writing. I’m keeping that particular rejection.

As I said before in my blog post, “Unemployment Tips,” the proper procedure for dealing with rejection is sitting down on the couch with a humongous bowl of ice cream. But if this doesn’t work for you, maybe you forgot to get groceries this week; I’d like to share a few other coping mechanisms I’ve tried.

1). Exercise. Exercise gets me out of my head. If I’m busy thinking about how much my arms hurt from doing push-ups, I’m not thinking about my job search troubles. Even if it doesn’t feel good while you’re doing it, it will feel good after. Endorphin anyone?

2). Ask your family and friends for support. Even if you’re embarrassed to be struggling, it’s worth it. Relatives, or at least my relatives, are soft and huggable. If you don’t have relatives, try your friends. If your friends aren’t around, I recommend you get a cat. There’s nothing softer than a cat’s belly fur—take it from me.

3). Do something that makes you feel in control of your life. Some people like to bake. Some people like to clean. I like to write. When I write I get to choose the character development, sentence structure, word choice, and so on. I can shape a piece until it’s exactly how I want it, or at least until it’s close to how I want it. Writers, like me, are notorious perfectionists.

4). Recognize the things you’re doing well. I know that can be hard when you’re not succeeding at what you want to succeed at. But it is possible. I, for one, can throw a mean side blade kick. A side blade kick is a type of karate kick where you use the blade of the foot. I’ve knocked people down with that kick. But then again, it’s not getting knocked down that matters; it’s getting back up.