Career Q&A: Received one nonprofit job offer but hoping for another

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I have been in a fairly grueling job search for the last six months and my money is running out. I have had several interviews lately and just received an offer – but not for the job that excited me the most. I have been told the process for the job I really want is lengthy – and although there are no guarantees that I will get it, the feedback I have received during the process so far has been very encouraging. The job I received an offer for looked interesting on paper but, during the interview process, it became clear that it will be quite different in practice and does not play to my strengths or interests. I also did not get a good vibe from the person who would be managing me, who seemed disorganized and a bit arrogant. What should I do?

First of all, congratulations are in order! If you are being offered multiple interview opportunities in relatively short time period, this shows that your job search strategy is working for you and that you have skills and experience that are of value to potential employers.

However, in addition to your own valid concerns of needing a paycheque, there are some other important things for you to consider in resolving your dilemma.

First, for most nonprofit employers – particularly for small to medium-sized organizations who don’t typically have dedicated human resource staff – the recruitment process is also grueling and labour intensive. Although there are no guarantees on either side of the process, if you really have no interest or desire to do the job that has been offered beyond the paycheque, it would be more professional (albeit a bit financially painful!) for you to decline it before the organization invests further in orientating and training you for a job you will leave as soon as possible. We would encourage this approach not just as a professional courtesy for the organization, but also because the nonprofit community in Canada is a small world and very connected. It is in your best long-term interest to keep the word of mouth and people’s impression of you positive – especially if you are planning on building a career within a specific sector or issue area.

Another thing that we really encourage clients to reflect on before applying or accepting an offer is to become really clear on what is attracting them to the position and how this position will fit in and support their career goals. To help with this process, we ask clients to rate the following on a scale of 1 (low) – 10 (high):

  • Your level of passion for the type of position and what you would get to do;
  • Your level of passion for the organization;
  • Your level of passion for the issue;
  • Level of fit this job has with your short-term goals; and the
  • Level of fit this job has with your long-term goals.

Depending on where you are on your career path and in your life, some criteria may be weighted more heavily than others and this will continue to fluctuate throughout your life. However, this reflection exercise should give you a clearer sense on whether this current opportunity will contribute enough to the different goals and needs you have in order to pursue it. In your case, it sounds like the score for your passion for what you would have gotten to do in the position has substantially decreased since it became clear the job will be much different than what was posted – and given how much time is spent at work, this is a critical consideration.

If you do decide there is enough benefit to you to pursue this offer in good faith – flaws and all – you should do it. In almost all employment contracts there is a probationary period, which is meant to be a time for both the employer and employee to try each other on for fit. Either can terminate the agreement with appropriate notice within this period and this would be perfectly professional and acceptable.

Best of luck with your decision!

Nancy Ingram is a co-founder and Principal Consultant at Foot in the Door Consulting, which specializes in helping nonprofit professionals build sustainable, satisfying and values-driven careers. Nancy and Foot in the Door Consulting’s team of expert associates have over 45 years of collective experience on both sides of the hiring and management process in the nonprofit sector in variety of sectors including human rights, social justice, environmental justice and animal rights. They can be reached through

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