Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 27: nonprofits, not for profits and for profits 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, nonprofits by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2013

This is my twenty seventh posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-336 for Parts 1-26.)

I began explicitly discussing working at nonprofits, not for profits and for profits in the context of this series in Part 26. My focus there was on how businesses hire, selecting employees to meet their perceived needs. And as a part of that, I at least began a discussion of a set of issues that would go into widening your career options across business types and industries so that you can be a good candidate for a wider range of work opportunities. This is particularly important in a tight job market and in a time of workplace and economic transition:

• That any candidate looking for work
• Or looking for advancement opportunities,
• Or simply looking to retain ongoing employment,
• Know how to better present themselves for the flexibility and general utility and value of what they can do, and for where they can offer significant value as an employee.

I said at the end of Part 26 that I would continue its narrative here, by more fully discussing for profit, not for profit, and nonprofit workplaces and working in them. And I begin that by repeating that businesses and organizations hold a great deal in common as to basic needs and processes and regardless of industry or business-type specializations. Every business, or at least every one that offers at least something unique as a product or service, or that pursues a customized process or work flow methodology, can be said to have its specializations and even its unique qualities. This applies much more widely than just to companies that happen to hold and maintain explicit trade secrets. But businesses and organizations, and even those businesses hold much in common too, that go way beyond simply following a same set of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) for their accounting and bookkeeping. And that is where opportunity becomes available for careers that span industries and other specialization barriers.

I begin here with consideration of points and areas held in common, and then consider differences and how to better address them in job search and career planning and execution.

• One of the points that I have repeatedly raised in the context of nonprofits and working for them is that they face fiscal and cash flow constraints,
• That force them to limit payroll and headcount as much as possible, and still get all essential tasks completed, while still keeping all essential ongoing operations running.
• This means that everyone who works at a nonprofit has to be prepared to take on a very wide range of responsibilities, and certainly when compared to corresponding job descriptions at a for profit that is operating in a more normal competitive environment.
• But “normal” in that last bullet point should probably be seen more as the “old normal” where for profit businesses of all types are also increasingly pressed to be as organizationally lean and agile as possible now. So where this might have once been more a defining quality of nonprofits, it is increasingly just a defining quality of “competitive” per se and for any type of business organization.
• Every employee and every job candidate seeking to become one, should present themselves as being flexibly capable of doing more and taking on wider ranges of responsibility than their peers would, who they are competing against.

Picking up on one of the key words that I have been using here, as of this writing we are facing an inconsistently growing and rebounding economy with hiring still lagging behind the rebounds and improvements that have been achieved in productivity and profits. As I have discussed in addendum postings to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Part 2 continuation page:

• Some of this discrepancy comes from outsourcing within the same country with specific tasks going to specialty businesses,
• Some might be going to countries where labor costs are lower, and with a primary goal of capturing savings from that,
• Some of this work is disappearing from human hands entirely and into automated systems, and
• Some is simply disappearing as no longer needed at all, except perhaps occasionally or at very low headcount requirements – with that largely outsourced and on its way to being automated away.
• Work that is outsourced, or where third party consultants or contract workers are brought in to do it rather than having it done by in-house employees, is increasingly going to consist of tasks and responsibilities that may be required by the hiring business, but that fall outside of its immediate areas of functionality that are focused on maintaining its competitive position.
• Work that would more explicitly define and support their sources of direct marketplace value and certainly work that would maintain unique sources of such value that they can offer – work that would fit into and directly sustain a business’ core capabilities should remain in-house.
• For professionals who seek to develop ongoing career paths, understanding and addressing these issues means knowing whether the tasks that you would primarily do are central and in-house for a business that you might work for, or more peripheral and either subject to being outsourced completely or turned over to consultants – or likely to be moved out of in-house by one of these routes.
• So when I wrote my first set of bullet points for this posting, above, I was not simply writing about doing lots of things and more indiscriminately as to range of tasks and skills addressed. I was writing about selecting and cultivating a coordinated suite of skills and experience that businesses would need to hire for, and either in-house and full-time, or consistently and reliably through these other (non-automated) channels such as consultants.
• And I would think through whether your work and skills and experience progression would lead you more towards in-house or consulting or outsourcing firm employment. And I would recommend here, that you keep your wider range of options open even if you do preferentially prefer as of now to pursue one of them (e.g. working in-house for stable mid-sized for profits in your general area of skills specialization and with a suite of skills that would help you get and stay employed in that.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will look into specialist and generalist roles, and into parsing the overall job requirement into general and specialty-knowledge and skills. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at its first Guide directory page.


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