Hey! I don’t know if this is ok to post here - feel free to delete if it’s not.
I recently shared this article on LinkedIn… but since this is actually a discussion forum please feel free to discuss / disagree
I’ve been doing a lot of screening, interviewing and hiring lately for tech positions and I wanted to share some advice for people looking to move into social justice tech. When you describe your reason why you want this job, it can’t just be that you want to help others, work for a mission-driven org, or that due to Trump you’ve decided it’s time to give back. Here’s why…
#1 – In my experience, literally every single person that has made it to the point of an interview wants to “do good”. Basically my resume/cover letter screening is… has this person even mentioned that this is a non-profit. So I need more to work with so I can set you apart from other candidates.
#2 – Some position themselves as “now that I’ve had a long and fulfilling career, I want to charitably apply my skills to a non-profit”. But this work is going to be slightly different than what you’re used to. There are many people applying who have an extensive tech-in-the-non-profit-sector background already – these people are who you’re competing against. So demonstrate an awareness that while you have skills and experience, you know this is a career pivot, and approach the interview that way. Show that you are eager to learn and grow, and will put in the work to making this career change work. This growth isn’t just learning about the subject matter. Spend time speaking to friends and networks to understand in what ways working in the non-profit tech sector could be different or similar to your experiences, and then make these connections during your interview (for example, in our non-profit the work feels like some combo to a start-up + government environment…)
#3 – I need someone who could be a thought-partner, which means someone who has the ability to be thoughtfully critical about the specifics about what we do and how we do it. After all, there are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States and just as many ways to “do good”.
So how should you approach this instead?
Show that you understand and are interested in what we do (even if you are faking it!). Whether you’re like the college intern who was clear that she was looking to dismantle the legacy of slavery, or like the PM who had recently signed up as a volunteer for court watch, or even if you just manage to name-drop one of the programs (“As an aside, I’m really interested in restorative justice and it’s potential to be healing, and can’t wait to learn more about what you are doing in this area”), I want to know that you want to learn more our role in our issue area, and that eventually you will be able to be thoughtful about our approaches and the role of technology in our work.
I hope this helps and good luck on your career journey!