Thursday, April 19, 2007

A date with destiny: calling New American Dream to explore job possibilities

I just wrapped up a call with M., a staff member at New American Dream, to explore employment possibilities there. I got a really enthusiastic reception, and M. described several of their recent initiatives for which she thought I could be a good fit. The response was so promising that I am a little scared and breathless now, know what I mean?!?!

In retrospect, I think the most critical actions I took are the ones I describe in "What I did to prepare for the call (long-term)", below. I didn't realize it at the time, nor did I deliberately take those steps with a job hunt in mind. But in hindsight, those actions helped me build relationships with the New Dream staff and demonstrate a track record of activism and enthusiastic support for their mission. They laid the groundwork for today's call.

What I did to prepare for the call (short-term):
  • Read their annual reports for the last 3 years, looked at trends in their campaigns and financials (both of which could have a bearing on hiring)
  • Read their current job listings
  • Read about their staff members, noted their educational backgrounds and work experience (in case I need to acquire more formal education in certain areas, or more related work experience)
  • Made an outline of my interests/skills that could be useful to the organization (see below)
  • Made a list of questions to ask during the call (see below)
  • Made a list of additional points I wanted to communicate to the organization (see below)
  • Browsed some websites about informational interviews to get ideas about what questions to ask during the call (I'll post these websites in a later entry)
What I did to prepare for the call (long-term):
  • Supported New Dream financially and through my self-directed volunteer/activism efforts for 6+ years
  • Evangelized their message and promote their programs to others in my community
  • Interacted and got acquainted with several members of their staff
    • Emailed my input, ideas, feedback, and compliments on their work, writings, and programs
    • Kept them updated on my local activism efforts to promote their message
    • Met with them whenever they were in town
My interests and skills:
  • Serving as a West Coast presence for New Dream
  • Applying my tech skills to develop website content and online activism tools
  • Writing for publications and other materials, maybe even grant proposals(?)
  • Developing campaigns/programs
  • Outreach efforts/grassroots activism
  • Contributing lots of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas
  • Administrative work
What I planned to ask during the call (I only got around to the first three):
  • What do you see as the organization's priorities in the next 1-2 years?
  • Which programs are expanding and hiring?
  • What education background and work experience make candidates most attractive to New Dream?
  • What skills are in greatest need at New Dream?
  • What kinds of personalities are the most successful at New Dream?
  • Is there anything else I should know about the employment outlook at New Dream?
  • Is it ok if I contact you once or twice during the coming year to follow up and get updated on the hiring situation?
Additional points I wanted to communicate during the call (I only got around to the first):
  • Working remotely for New Dream is my #1 dream job.
  • I prefer full-time, but I'm open to alternative work arrangements - part-time, contract, unpaid/volunteer (but only on a temporary/trial basis - I still need to pay the bills :-)
  • My interest in working at New Dream is long-term. If nothing is available in my desired timeframe, please continue to keep me informed about opportunities that arise at a later time.
  • Whatever the outcome of these career discussions/explorations is, it will not affect my future support of New Dream financially or otherwise. I have a fundamental belief in your mission and will continue to support it to the extent that I have the resources to do so.
What I learned during the call:
  • New Dream is in the process of transforming from an awareness-raising organization into one that advocates and achieves actions (on a collective cultural/institutional/governmental level as well as individual/personal actions). They want to expand their message and philosophy from a limited realm of "cultural creatives" into the mainstream culture.
  • Their programs and their coverage in the media have been growing so quickly that they have been swamped with work. (Sounds like it was a good time to approach them for a job...)
  • New Dream has been doing a lot of hiring recently and plans to do more hiring in the immediate future.
    • Specific positions:
      • Carbon Program Director: someone with a lot of organizing experience, an extrovert, go-getter, very persuasive person.
      • Development Officer: to develop a database of small/emerging donors
    • General qualifications:
      • A college degree
      • Lots of energy and drive, on fire about the issues addressed by New Dream, thinks about this stuff at night (M. said that I fit this profile!)
  • High-priority programs in the coming year:
    • Carbon program (new): They have recently been awarded several grants for this. It will include a program with six steps that individuals can take, a component for assisting local county/municipal governments with meeting their CO2 reduction goals, and other initiatives. Most of the program content will be new; the only existing campaign to be folded into the carbon program is Declare Your Independence from Junk Mail.
    • Alternative Gift Registry: An online gift registry for weddings, baby showers, and other occasions that includes not just traditional material gifts from a variety of stores, but charitable donations and non-material gifts as well (e.g. "babysitting for a day", "mow your lawn for a month", etc.)
    • Conscious Consumer website: Will be expanded significantly. It will also incorporate an "epinions" feature with user reviews of the various green products recommended by the website.
    • A general revamp of their website
What opportunities I found exciting:
  • Definitely the web development stuff for the Alternative Gift Registry, the Conscious Consumer website, and the general website revamp. I heard that their IT guy has way too much web development work to do, so maybe it's a good time for me to step in!
What I will do to follow up:
  • Send a thank-you email to M. Include some of the additional points I didn't get to mention during the call. Request the link to the Alternative Gift Registry proposal and related documents.
  • Contact New Dream's IT guy. I have some ideas on how to market myself to the IT guy; I'll post these in a later entry.
  • Think about a possible collaboration between my Resources for Sustainable Weddings website and the Alternative Gift Registry; follow up with M. on this.

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