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Career Advice: Neeta Nadkarny, Customer Relations Director

Neeta Nadkarny has worked at DonorsChoose.org since 2005, and has worn many different hats. Neeta manages our Customer Relations team, which focuses on improving web-based customer support as well as making changes to the DonorsChoose.org experience driven by user feedback. She has some great insights for anyone looking to find (and keep) a job they love!
Q: Who has made the greatest impact on your career thus far?
A: Probably a career counselor in college who steered me toward my first internship. I made an appointment with her to learn about a totally different opportunity and to get some feedback on my resume. When she read on my resume that I coordinated a weekly food sale for a campus club, she urged me to apply for a summer position at a public radio station in the fundraising department.
At the time, I probably wouldn’t have made the connection on my own between selling samosas in the student center and fundraising for a major organization. And that one internship put me on my career path in the nonprofit sector.
Q: When hiring, what are the most important things you look for in a resume?
A: I want a candidate to show an understanding of the position and our organization. It can take a lot more time if you’re doing a big job search, but it really makes a difference when you tailor your application. As a small organization, we invest a lot in each person we hire. We need to know the candidate can do the work but it’s equally important to find people who care about our mission and our model.
Q: When applying for a job, what is your best advice for a successful interview?
A: Show that you’re a fit for both the role and the company. The hiring manager needs to understand your skills and experience, but also what it would be like to work with you. As you answer questions, try to tell stories that show how you would contribute to the position, the team, and the company.
Remember that you’re also “interviewing” the organization to figure out if it’s a place you’d like to spend a lot of your time. If you ace your interview, get the job, feel unhappy and leave after a couple of months, nobody wins. Most interviews include time for you to ask questions. Use it! In addition to any questions about the role or logistics, ask about things like a typical day, the culture of the company, and what people like about working there.
Q: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at work?
A: Learn how to give and receive feedback. Understanding what you do well (which often aligns with what you love doing, and what comes naturally to you!) will help you figure out the ideal work for you. And constructive feedback can take you from being fine at your job to being awesome and impressive. Most companies have mechanisms to give performance feedback in some way. If you’re not getting constructive feedback and specific information about what you do well, you’re getting gypped.
But while formal evaluation is important, it’s not enough to get feedback once or twice a year just from your manager. It’s EVERYONE’S responsibility to give feedback whenever you have the opportunity. A lot of people shy away from giving constructive feedback because we think it will be uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback about your work – it can create a safe space for people to say things they might not otherwise think to tell you. And if you see something that could take a colleague from good to excellent, find a sensitive way to tell them what they can do better. You aren’t doing any favors by keeping quiet.
Positive feedback is a lot easier :). The next time you see a colleague solve a tricky problem, run a really effective meeting, do a thorough job on a project – tell them what they did to impress you! Don’t just say thanks, let them know why you’re saying thanks. It’ll make both of you feel really good.
Want to work with Neeta? Check out our open positions at donorschoose.org/jobs!

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