Why Working for a Small Non-Profit Out of College Was My Best Decision Yet

When I first graduated college, I spent a month or two non-stop searching for jobs, interviewing and feeling just plain distraught over the fact that (in my mind) I was never going to find a job.

As I sit down to write this, it’s hard to believe that my college graduation was one year ago. And while it took two months for me to finally get that “you’ve got the job” phone call, it eventually did happen.

And the funny thing is, I didn’t really want that job. It was for a mediocre size company, in the middle of No-Wheres-Ville, PA. It was far from my home, my friends, my family. I didn’t know anyone in the area. It didn’t pay great. I was excited, and then not really all that excited at the same time. I told them I needed some time to think about it.

A few days later, I decided I couldn’t wait around for something else to fall into my lap, and that this job might very well be the only one I was going to get at the time in as a young professional in a wildly-competetive job market, and I accepted the position. I was ready to give up my Netflix addiction and start my career.

I moved to the new, minuscule area a few weeks later and started my first “big-girl” job in a tiny health care non-profit where I would stay for the next nine months before landing a job that was more ‘up my alley’; closer to my friends/family, better pay and more opportunity for professional growth.

And although I wasn’t thrilled at first for my job with the non-profit, I couldn’t be more pleased that I chose the road (less traveled? Here’s to looking at you, Robert Frost) I did. Working for a small (in size and budget) company opened my eyes to the back-ends of everything that makes an organization tick. I gained more experience in those nine months than had I ever waited around to take some other, entry-level position.

And here’s why:

Because my department contained all of three employees. You heard me — THREE! Which meant a ton of responsibility fell on my shoulders. I was able to explore, voice my opinions and work closely with my team to make things happen. I was a part of every in and out of every move we made.

Because I got to know everyone. I knew every employee in every department; including each volunteer we had. When I had a problem and needed IT’s help, I would sit in their office and watch how they ran the back-ends of the company. I had the opportunity to work with nurses and doctors, learning what was done on their end — outside of the office — helping me to better understand my job. I worked closely with accounting and billing and watched how every number of every budget was broken down. I assisted human resources and witnessed what went on behind closed doors. I could sit down with the CEO, face-to-face, and discuss projects, events and employee relations. I was able to work with each and every manager, no matter the department, and learn how each of them played a role in operating the organization. These are things I might never have the chance to do in any job ever again; but at least I know, when I’m (now) one of 19,000 employees, the types of things that are going on elsewhere in other parts of the company — and that, in itself, is forever invaluable.

Because I was given more tasks than my job description noted. And while, at times, that felt unfair and frustrating, it was really a blessing in disguise. I ran around like a chicken with my head chopped off more times than not and thinking, “This isn’t my job,” or “I’m not getting paid enough to do this,” when — in reality — I was gaining more than I could see. Looking back, I’m grateful for those experiences. I wore a lot of hats and I’m happy that I was given those responsibilities for the sake of learning to accomplish something regardless of whether or not it was my job, and in doing so, gaining more knowledge than I would have if I was just given my assignments. Every day was something different, and it caused me to become adaptable to a lot of different work environments.

Because when faced with difficulties, I had to pick up the pieces. There weren’t a whole lot of people to count on. As I mentioned before, there were three of us in one department. When sh*t hit the fan, I had to think on my feet to relieve the problem. Because there weren’t other people to run to for help, I relied on myself to fix the problems. I couldn’t give up, because, sometimes, I was the only person I could count on.

Because it made me learn to work with people I didn’t like. With a small group of working (mostly) women, you could sometimes feel the tension floating around the office. There was gossip, and fights and a lot of secrecy; and though these are things you might come to find in any work place, when you’re working with a smaller group of people, it tends to make it harder to respect them or find an outlet. I learned to not involve myself in anything besides my work because of the small territory we all shared — later helping me to understand and respect those in a larger organization.

Because I learned how to budget. I knew people who were making more than I was, and I knew people who were making less. I was well-off in the sense that I could afford my rent, bills, food, dog and social life. But, after taxes, it wasn’t the world’s best paycheck. Yet, I made it work. I learned how to budget my life (for the first time ever, mind you) from the smaller paychecks I received, which made it that might easier to become a “saver” once the larger paychecks started to come around.

Overall, working for the small, non-profit right out of college was the best decision I could have made. I learned a lot about myself in those nine months; professionally and personally. I gained experience, I gained professionalism and I gained a sense of self. It was like being thrown into a pool for the first time ever and learning how to swim and, though it was a tough nine months, I’m thrilled that it landed me where I am today: a place I don’t think I’d be had I not chosen to work for that small non-profit.

It’s hard to believe that, at one time, it didn’t sound so great.

– C

You Didn’t Get The Job: What To Do Next

As a young professional and/or recent college grad, you may find yourself in a slew of interview after interview, with little to no results. It can be unsatisfying, frustrating, and mostly, discouraging.

BUT, says the recent college grad, don’t fret. There are steps you can take after you don’t land the job that can better serve you and your interview experiences in the future — and eventually, land you that dream job.

When you don’t get the job, take time to follow the steps below, and then take yourself out for a margarita, because, well damn, you deserve it!

The College Grad’s Guide (to not FREAKING OUT) When You Don’t Get The Job:

  1. Thank them for their time and consideration.
    Landing an interview alone is a pretty big deal, especially if you’re a recent college grad or young professional. Be considerate of the time the interviewer(s) took to spend with you, asking you questions and learning about who you are, even if it didn’t work out for you in the end. An employer will appreciate a quick thank you.
  2. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and to please keep you in mind.
    While you’re writing your thank you, be sure to include that it was a pleasure meeting them, and that if they have any openings in the near future, to please keep your name and resume in mind. It happens all the time – You don’t get the job you wanted but in three months you’re getting a call for another position within the same company. You’re not always denied because you weren’t capable, you just might not have been capable for THAT specific job. Remind the employer to keep you in mind – you never know what might come out of it.
  3. Take what they said about why you didn’t get the job into consideration.
    And if they didn’t tell you, it’s OK to ask (in addition to that ‘thank you’ you’re sending). You might not always get a response, but most of the time you will. After thanking them, ask them if they could send you a quick list of some of the reasons they felt that you were not applicable for the position – or things you could work on for next time. Take everything they say into consideration, even if you do not agree. You might not have realized you were doing something in the interview that they did; and that’s something you’ll want to know for the future.
  4. After taking what they said into consideration, make note of what you can do better next time.
    Sit down and say, OK, this is what they didn’t like, and this is what I can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Whether it was being late or being unprepared for certain questions, there’s always going to be ways to improve — and it’s better to know them ahead of time.
  5. Review/Write down and review the questions you were asked.
    Try to make a mental note during the interview of the questions they’re asking – especially if you’ve never heard them before. Come home, and write them down. Try to remember what your answers were, and think about how you can elaborate on them more next time around. Chances are, you’re going to hear them again in another interview or two, so once you’ve prepared, you’ll ace it every time! This is truly a benefit of going on interviews and not landing the job: experience!
  6. Talk about the interview with a mentor/professor/parent.
    Sit down with someone you respect professionally and describe the interview to them; the setting, the questions/answers, the atmosphere, the vibe. They may be able to pick up on something that you didn’t. It’s easier to be an outsider looking in to identify the rough spots. Sometimes an interviewer is a ‘dud’ – making it hard for you to answer questions or feel that you are able to answer appropriately, or maybe you were in a bright-lit room and it was hard for you to concentrate on the interview. Ask them their opinions and what they think could be done if you’re ever in a similar situation again.
  7. Don’t yell about the company (or interview/er) online/social media.
    Recently a soon-to-be-college-grad blasted a company’s name all over social media when she didn’t get the job; claiming that it was because of the way she was dressed. Under no circumstances should you ever post about a company online, whether you include their name or not. Everything you post is public, even if you don’t think anyone but your friends can see it. Even if the company you’re talking about doesn’t see the post, that doesn’t mean another company considering you for a position won’t either. They won’t see you as a loyal or respectable candidate, and you could blow your chances even before you land another interview.
  8. Take it as an experience and move on.
    Be grateful for all of the interviews you go on. Each one will help you to realize what kinds of jobs you do and do not want to take, how many various questions can be asked and what you can work on for next time. They also have the ability to make you realize that an interview can go on for five minutes, or two hours, and ways to interact with different types of employers. Every interview you go on is beneficial to your career in the long run. So even if you didn’t get the job, nothing about an interview should ever be considered a failure.
  9. Don’t dwell.
    It’s easy to become distraught, especially when it seems like you may never find that perfect job. Don’t dwell on interviews and think about all that went wrong – think about all that could come from it. You’re becoming better and better and more and more prepared with each and every interview, so never overthink or regret something you said in one interview for too long. Pick yourself up and move on to the next one.
  10. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    Here’s the important thing to remember: You’re still learning. And any interviewer who reads over your resume and invites you in for a meeting knows that. They don’t expect you to blow it out of the water – and even when you do rock it, that doesn’t mean you got the job; and that can be frustrating. Don’t forget that you’re not any less of a person or professional because you didn’t get this one job.

Cheers to you 🙂

 

-C

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Contact The College Grad:
Email – cswetsky@gmail.com
Twitter – @caraswetsky