How many skills can YOU cram into 1-3 years of experience?

I opened this job posting I found on Idealist - for a "Membership Outreach and Office Associate" - because I know a lot of folks that work in membership and thought it might be of interest to them. (I've screenshotted the ad in its entirety at the bottom of this post.)

I'm mildly terrified of what I found. I'd be moreso if I didn't know that this is absolutely par for the course for positions like these. 

First, let me say that, as far as I can tell, the National Foundation for Women Legislators is a perfectly fine organization. It supports elected women at all levels, which seems Good To Me, and is very big on something called "Smart Cities" which is very techy and I'm sure is part of why they've attracted such a ... gallery of sponsors (their website is the first time I've ever seen The Chickasaw Nation, the NRA, Pepsico, the State of New Jersey, various big-box stores, petroleum trade organizations, and a tobacco consortium all banded together in common cause).

It's also very small, with what looks like 5 employees, including one consultant. Which I imagine is why they need to hire this particular position. 

Which, folks, let me tell you... I hope they're paying well for it (they haven't responded yet to my inquiry on pay for the position as of publishing). Here's what you'd be doing if you got hired: 

  • Design and update all marketing materials
  • Managing all membership activities, including new member outreach and recruitment and membership database work
  • Newsletters and email blasts
  • Website updates
  • Press releases and media relations
  • All social media for the org
  • Measure the effectiveness of all of the above
  • Serve as the front-line contact for their 5000 or so members
  • Handle all management and performance of "back-office functions" 
  • Ordering office supplies
  • Some level of accounting work (they do have a bookkeeper)
  • Assisting with budgets for events
  • Managing all interns

I mean, that sounds like a lot.

The kicker? They're looking for someone with 1-3 years experience. 

I don't begrudge non-profits having these sort of catch-all positions. In small organizations, it's usually necessary to wear a lot of hats. I had a job like that earlier in my career, and I really enjoyed it; a lot of folks like me actually thrive in jobs where no 2 days are the same. 

And to some degree, I sympathize that this job description was probably put together in a rush by very busy people who wanted to express that this position does a lot of the ground work for the organization. It's important for candidates to know what they're getting into. 

But honestly, how many folks with 1-3 years of experience actually meet the "basic" qualifications of knowing how to use Mailchimp, Gsuite, Dropbox, Highrise (a CRM which is listed as a "basic office computer program"), Quickbooks, social media and databases? 

(Let's not even get into the fact that they should basically have switched the entire "Basic Qualifications" and the entire "Preferred Qualifications" sections, as I doubt they will actually reject you if you're otherwise amazing but have never used Quickbooks, whereas they really should reject you if you're terrible with customers and can't stay organized to save your life.) 

(Let's also skip, for now, that the job is up-front about your needing to stay late some days "as needed". It's common, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck.) 

(Finally, let's just glaze over the fact that this job, like so many others, pointlessly requires a college degree.) 

I'm skipping over those objections because none of them are what's actually wrong with this job ad. 

The problem is that the NFWL is simultaneously projecting 2 very different things with the same ad: 

  1. This is a professional, mid-level job that requires experience, a lot of areas of competency and the ability to manage a lot of different functions of the organization all at once, and
  2. This is practically an entry-level gig that you can jump into without much experience and learn on job. 

It might well be that the organization is open to hiring people from a variety of different skill and experience levels, and that the pay they offer will depend on which end of the spectrum the hire falls on. You wanna know what a great way to communicate that would be? By saying it, in the job ad, along with the actual salary range you plan to pay. 

Maybe this job is totally reasonable. It's a small org, so maybe having one person perform all of these functions adds up to about one 40 hour a week job. And if so, it could be a tremendous growth position for plenty of folks. 

I'm just incredibly skeptical of a job that has so many tasks rolled into it, that also states that it is a "professional" level job, that also thinks it can find all those competencies in someone with 1-3 years experience. To me, that screams "we're paying below $40k annually for this position, and you'll leave it within a year because it just won't be worth the stress." 

I suspect they really will hire someone with 1-3 years experience, at a relatively low rate, and I suspect that that person won't have half the "required" qualifications, but instead will show the "preferred" skills... good customer service, some computer competency, maybe some relevant experience in a couple of these areas from internships, and a general intelligence and ability to learn. 

In which case, the subterfuge of having all these "required" skills and qualifications would serve only one purpose: duping people much more senior than you can afford into applying. 

If that's not the case, if they really can imagine hiring someone with significant experience (and paying them for it), why not put that in the ad? It's way more likely that "1-3 years of experience" is scaring away folks who actually do have a lot of experience and are sure you're not going to pay them. 

Either way, this is a bad job ad for the simple reason that, in trying to hedge its bets, it chases plenty of qualified people from applying because its unclear what they want. 

Are they really looking for a unicorn who has managed to get all that experience in just one job after college? Or are they much more flexible on requirements than they're saying (which means that their applicant pool will tend to skew disproportionately male)? Given how much they jumble the "required" stuff vs the "preferred," I would bet the latter. 

It pays to be thoughtful about this stuff. If you tell people that these 5 bullet points are required to apply for your job, you need to know that at least some people will take you at your word. Are those people that you might want to hire for this job? Maybe you need a rewrite, then.