Since the economy crashed in 2008, while finding employment has been a challenge, the tide may be turning for the better — particularly in the nonprofit sector. But where do Jewish nonprofits fall within the current landscape, from the perspective of both job-seekers and employers?
Broadly speaking, employment continues to be “a buyer’s market,” says Linda Wolfe, director of career development and placement at JVS Chicago, an affiliate agency of the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services.
“Employers are like kids in a candy store,” she says. “They have their choice [among] hundreds and hundreds of candidates.”
When it comes to nonprofits, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an upward trend since 2011, but overall employment still down from pre-2008 levels. Statistics also show that employees are earning more per hour but working fewer hours.
These findings underscore the wider growth in part-time jobs across the country. As the Wall Street Journal reported in July, while full-time jobs plunged by 523,000 in May, part-time jobs grew by about 800,000 that month. Just over 47 percent of adults in the U.S. are currently working full-time.
When it comes to Jewish nonprofit jobs, the job-posting website Jewishjobs.com recently listed about 800 openings. This year has so far seen the highest number of jobs-per-week advertised on the site since its inception in 2001. The number of weekly job advertisements has been on the upswing since around 2010, says Benjamin Brown, the founder and director of Jewishjobs.com, which lists nonprofit communal postings.
Brown founded the site while studying for a graduate degree in American Jewish history and looking to find a job at a Jewish organization. The site eventually became a major job-searching and posting resource for the Jewish community. As such, Brown emphasizes, the growth in the number of jobs advertised could also be influenced by Jewish organizations’ growing awareness of the site.
Organizations advertising employment on Brown’s site tend to be federations, schools, Jewish community centers, American fundraising arms of overseas Jewish organizations, local nonprofits, and major advocacy groups. About 6,000 organizations have used the site since it was launched.
When it comes to job applicants, other than graduating college students, the candidates applying for positions through the site tend to be “what I would call second career changers,” Brown says. They include former employees of for-profit organizations who were laid off or simply got “burned out with the for-profit work schedule,” Brown suggests.
The job market has also seen a growth in the number of applicants per opening, according to the Joel Paul Group, a New York-based executive search and recruiting firm conducting national searches for entities with 501c3 non profit status. Eighty-five percent of the agency’s work is with Jewish organizations, with searches primarily focusing on middle- to upper-level executives.
“From 2008 to now, there has been an increase in the number of jobs available to job-seekers, but the numbers of candidates are increasing as well,” says William Hochman, CEO and owner of the Joel Paul Group. “There are still more applicants than there are jobs out there.”
Hochman also points to a fallout that resulted from the recession, which forced for-profit workers whose jobs got downsized to rebrand their skills for jobs at nonprofit organizations.
“One thing the recession did that might not be evident … is that while the nonprofit [organizations] got decimated because donors weren’t giving as much due to recession issues, new candidates [came] into the nonprofits who in the past would have gone to accounting, finance, [or] Wall Street,” Hochman says.
On the CEO hiring level, he adds, “Traditionally the nonprofit organizations have taken leaders from the nonprofit sector,” but in the past few years, many “have [also] hired lay leaders … people who have day jobs in the for-profit sector and are now going to be CEO of organizations such as the UJA-Federation of N.Y., Birthright, JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America), or the Orthodox Union.”
Wolfe, at JVS Chicago, also sees workers from the corporate world realizing that nonprofit social service is something they can contribute their skills to.
“What we’ve learned at JVS is that a lot of senior and mid-level people that come from the corporate world, [who] have found their way to Jewish communal service, really want to give back at a certain point in their lives,” she says.
At the same time, Wolfe says, job-seekers are realizing “that you can’t always assume that you’re going to get the exact position that you came from, so there’s a scaling down of expectations.”
Jewish federations, in particular, are not necessarily looking for candidates with specific degrees or job histories. Rather, “There’s a tremendous move in the federations towards bringing in people who are risk-takers, who are innovators,” notes Rea Kurzweil, the managing director of talent acquisition services at JFNA’s Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence.
Wolfe says candidates need to take initiative to show potential employers that they understand the organization, and to explain how they intend to solve the organization’s problems. But along with that, they need to be prepared for a reality in which 50-year-old candidates are often being interviewed —and subsequently managed — by much younger supervisors.
What’s the most popular job listing among nonprofits? According to Meryl Kanner, the supervisor of career counseling and placement services at JVS in New Jersey, it’s development/fundraising.
“It’s all about bringing in dollars and helping nonprofits survive,” says Kurzweil.