Help me find help to get a job
May 11, 2012 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Career coach or someone who can help me find/get a job in my field (social work/non-profit)? Getting desperate and losing hope after three years of no luck. In NYC.

I'm seeking someone who can help me take my job search to the next level. I'm not sure what kind of person I'm looking for exactly, but I'll tell you a little about me and a little about what I want and maybe you can help me out.

I got my Master of Social Work in Spring 2009 in North Carolina, then my LMSW license for the state of New York in fall of 2009. I currently live in Brooklyn. I have been unemployed in my field since graduating (I have been waiting tables in the meantime, unhappily). I am not seeking clinical work--my ideal job would be program development (not fundraising, but creating and designing) and program evaluation.

Outside of this, I also find myself applying to volunteer coordinator positions a lot as well. I am willing to do case work or direct practice to get my foot in the door but I have no real desire to and that is not where my skills lie. I prefer to work with at-risk-youth, perhaps in work force development. I'd also be happy to work with families and women as a broader population.

I have been applying to jobs consistently for the last three years. I have volunteered as my schedule allows. I have sought advice from the few people I know in my field, and have done my best to network, making use of linkedin and whatever else. I feel like I don't know what else I can do, but obviously whatever I'm doing isn't working.

What I seek is a person who will actually give me constructive criticism of my résumé and cover letter practices. Someone who might have contacts in the non-profit or public services field. Someone who will help me with interview coaching. And most importantly--someone that is available for me to call/email when I need further advice. Ideally the relationship would start out by a session or a few where we work on my presentation (both on paper and in interviews), and would then continue with me being able to call/email/meet when I run into obstacles or just need general advice like asking 'what points should I emphasize in this cover letter?' or 'who can I talk to directly at this organization?'.

Please keep in mind that, as a waitress, my funds are very limited. Someone who allows for a sliding scale would be fantastic. My mother would likely give me a little bit of money to pursue this kind of help if I ask, but it also wouldn't be much.

I live in North Brooklyn, but will go anywhere within Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens to talk to the right person.
posted by greta simone to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not in NYC, but do work in non-profit development. I think the big question I have is why would you not do fundraising? This economy means it's a good time to develop a programme of your own and shop it around to organisations you want to work with. I know your funds are limited, so the best option might be to synthesize a business plan and start entering competitions. You can take the money (usually a convertible note) anywhere, as long as it is a place where you can build up and build out the programme. You could even transfer into a new project at that time.

I recently put together a focus group around what I am passionate about (sports, interfaith work, creative and cultural industry) and figured out five potential plans to bring to incubators in the UK. I was successful in landing a fellowship that could have lead to £50,000 in funding. Crucially, you get the experience of meeting potential funders and gaining partners who might not be in the same field as you but do have the interest and poise to help bring about your idea in a more suitable and income-generating way.

My experience is the future of social work is about supplying services that are not well delivered by public institutions and doing it in a way that can earn paid delivery contracts from the government, foundations and the private sector. You must have some idea sitting around in your head that you could write a ten-page business plan about. Even if you write it just to shop around to organisations that you work with, it will be a lot better to show them that than just passing around a resume. I am sure that you have built up a lot of contacts you are now reluctant to approach because it has been so long since you have felt certain of your own abilities. That is the big problem with looking for a specific thing and trying for a specific thing in a way that means the only answer is someone employs you. First, employ yourself to develop and write a programme you want to work with; something that you would be willing to invest personal time in; something that you would be less fearful to bring to people who could potentially support it; and, most importantly, something that will draw the attention of people who have the disposition to support independent professionals in social work who are interested in striking out on their own.
posted by parmanparman at 6:27 AM on May 11, 2012 is the NY State association of business incubators. There is money out there and there are contacts. Go use them!
posted by parmanparman at 6:28 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Parmanparman--thank you for the suggestion. Thing is I DON'T have a lot of contacts at all, and I don't feel like I have enough experience and knowledge to even begin to do what you suggest. I would need guidance, which is what I am seeking from a coach of some sort.

I appreciate suggestions for what I can do to find work, but what I want here is to find someone with whom I can develop a relation and dialogue for continued suggestions. Please try to keep answers to the question at hand. Thanks y'all.
posted by greta simone at 6:32 AM on May 11, 2012

Response by poster: A good part of my problem is that I'm not good at selling myself. So that's the first step that I need to work on and I would like a person who can help me with that within the context of a job search.
posted by greta simone at 6:37 AM on May 11, 2012

Don't think of a career coach as a lifesaver or a life preserver (latter may be more accurate). I looked just now and found over a dozen social work meetups in the NYC area and there are probably many more. I doubt you will find a career coach who understands the social work market.
posted by parmanparman at 6:37 AM on May 11, 2012

I'm wondering what level of jobs you are applying for? My path was strikingly similar to yours. I have a Masters of Social Work from a southern state university (although my focus was non-profit management, not clinical). Even though I had a few internships, and lots of volunteer work under my belt, I ended up working in retail management for three years before making my way to NYC and landing my first "real" job in my field. And that first job was an administrative associate... basically the bottom of the totem pole. However, within 5 years, I had two promotions and had worked my way into a management role.

The first two years were tough, in fact I was still working part-time in retail to make ends meet for a while. But getting my foot in the door, and showing what I could do opened many doors for advancement. And, like parmanparman, I found my place in fundraising (although I do systems management and research... no direct donor contact).

I would be wary of paid services. During my last job switch, I decided to have my resume done my someone who specialized in non-profit resumes. It was NOT money well spent. If you do find someone, I would check a lot of references first.
posted by kimdog at 7:07 AM on May 11, 2012

Best answer: I know it can be demoralizing to apply for job after job with no results and it can be helpful to have someone to talk to besides your school's Career Services department. If you want someone who will inspire you and spend as much time as you need to come up with a detailed plan (and then motivate you to follow through on it) I suggest that you contact Carlota Zimmerman. She's in New York. Her rates are very reasonable. She has helped me and she is very good at this kind of thing.
posted by steinwald at 7:08 AM on May 11, 2012

I think going to the Social Work meet-ups is a great idea. Ask the people there whose jobs most closely align to what you'd like to do if they'd be willing to do an informational interview over coffee or lunch. Most people would be open to that. Do this a few times, and you'll get ideas for ways in. You say you're interested in working with at-risk youth; have you tried the educational angle? Talk to school counselors about which youth programs are awesome, do some informational interviews with people from these organizations. Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 7:19 AM on May 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you steinwald for answering my question. Again everyone, I appreciate the suggestions. If I had actually written all the things I have done to help my search, the post would have been too long. I'm not seeking job search advice from the hive, I'm seeking recommendations for a career coach or whatever kind of person I can get regular help from. Thanks again!
posted by greta simone at 7:29 AM on May 11, 2012

I am not well connected in this area but copyedit for fun and profit. I would be happy to look at your resume and any coverletters. Memail me!
posted by kettleoffish at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2012

*cover letters

posted by kettleoffish at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2012

It's okay to start out without a network and cold call people you think do interesting work to find out how they got where they are. These are information interviews, and they're one component of building your contact list. You research a person, you call or email the person to request 15-30 minutes, you ask specific , targetted questions about their work , how they got it, and what you should be doing to get some of your own.

Few places will hire based on resumes alone... Relationships & recommendations go a long way towards shaping hiring decisions. Based on my experience on the fringes of your field in Toronto, you should be sure to look for part time & contract work to get yourself in the door.

Volunteering "when your schedule permits" also won't go nearly as far as having a regular volunteer gig at an organization so they can get to know you and your work ethic.

A coach could absolutely help you plan out a strategy to do those calls & review your resume and cover letter(s) when the time comes. I have one in Toronto who also coaches via Skype on a sliding scale, memail if you want more info.

Project development almost exclusively happens in the context of fundraising around here, because why would an org'n develop a program if they didn't have funding for it?
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 1:12 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Again, I am not not seeking career advice here. Most of what you all have mention I have tried and continue to try, but neglected to write in my post because it's irrelevant to the question of 'Can you recommend a career coach in NYC?'. So, um, can anyone other than steinwald [thank you steinwald] recommend a career coach in NYC? Thanks.
posted by greta simone at 2:33 PM on May 11, 2012

Best answer: I can't help w/ NYC-specific recommendations, but can suggest a method that might be helpful. I recently was looking for something kind of similar here in NC (hi, by the way!), and I had a lot of luck calling the UNC career center and asking them for recommendations for local therapists that specialize in career issues. They directed me to a psychologist who helped me with some of the emotional stuff around career and job searching, and who also gave me a lot of concrete help with my resume, interview preparation, job-search strategy, etc.

Since you're not an alum, you probably can't access the career services at NYC colleges and universities, but I bet if you called up the various career centers at those places and explained that you were looking for a career coach w/ specific MSW/nonprofit expertise, they would be happy to give you a list of local referrals.

Also, have you seen these career-counselor sites? I have no idea if they have good people or not but it might be somewhere to start: the "career counselors consortium" and the National Career Development Association's "find a counselor" page.

Good luck!
posted by aka burlap at 8:32 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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