How to Find a Job that Matters to You, with Melanie Damm

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You spend the majority of your life at work, so it’s important that your work matters to you. A job that matters adds to your overall fulfillment in life, as well as provides you with direction in your career, says Find Your Dream Job guest Melanie Damm. Melanie suggests starting with what you value most, whether thats flexible hours, salary, or company culture. Envision what your day-to-day would look like in this position. Finally, consider your personality and talents; if you’re a creative, you likely don’t want to sit at a desk all day creating spreadsheets. 

About Our Guest:

Melanie Damm is a recruitment consultant at the Equitable Hiring Group. Her firm helps nonprofits and impact-driven companies hire. 

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 449:

How to Find a Job that Matters to You, with Melanie Damm

Airdate: May 8, 2024

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Sometimes, you have to take a paycheck job in order to pay your bills.

But you also likely want to do work that has meaning.

Melanie Damm is here to talk about how to find a job that matters to you.

She’s a recruitment consultant at the Equitable Hiring Group. Her firm helps nonprofits and impact-driven companies hire.

Melanie joins us from Portland, Oregon.   

Well, Melanie, here’s where I want to start: why is it important to understand what kind of job matters most to you?

Melanie Damm:

I think it’s important to find a job that matters to you personally so that you can be fulfilled so that you can have a job that gives you a lot of energy and makes you feel happy at the end of the day or the end of the week.

The first part of this is identifying your values and what you personally value or what you value in others. Think of a company that you’re going to work for as almost another person, and think about do you value flexibility, loyalty, transparency, honesty, all of those things? But also it can be do you value organizations that are doing good things for the environment or education or health.

There’s a lot to think about.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I want to dig into that, and especially talking about the importance of identifying values.

Before we get there, Melanie, you talked about the value of finding a job and the satisfaction of doing work that matters to you. What difference can finding a job that matters to you make in your career over the long term?

Melanie Damm:

Finding a job that matters to you in the long term can really put you on the path to have a career around those values that inspire you and things that you care about and a career that, ultimately, at the end of the day, you feel good about and that you can feel better about on a day to day basis, knowing that it fulfills you.

Mac Prichard:

Can you only find a job that matters to you at nonprofit organizations, Melanie?

Melanie Damm:

No, not at all. A lot of people that I talk to, I am a recruiter, will approach me, and they will have worked at a corporation or something, where they describe it as soul-sucking, and they really want to transition their career into the nonprofit space, and a lot of times, what I see is that they get caught up in a day to day job that doesn’t really energize them or maybe they realize the nonprofit industrial complex is kind of similar to a corporate job in capitalism. They all have their downsides.

You really don’t need to work at a nonprofit in order to have a job that’s meaningful to you. There are a lot of different ways to have a job that is meaningful to you and it looks a number of different ways depending on who you are. It’s not a one size fits all sort of thing.

Mac Prichard:

What about pay, Melanie? Does doing meaningful work mean taking a pay cut or even a vow of poverty?

Melanie Damm:

I hope not! Everyone has bills to pay. A lot of nonprofits do pay a lower wage than for-profit siblings and their for-profit cousins. That’s something that a lot of people remark upon when they’re looking for nonprofit jobs is that, “Oh gosh, am I going to have to take a pay cut?”

And you know what, truth be told, if you can’t get by on a lower pay or you don’t want to be impoverished in making a career change, then don’t do it.

You can still work at a for-profit job. You don’t need to make that switch into the nonprofit sector. It just requires a little bit of creativity and thinking about, “Okay, what are some other ways in which this job could be meaningful for me?”

Or ultimately, if you are in a soul-sucking job because you need that paycheck and you need flexible hours or whatever it is that you really can’t compromise on, look for ways to make a difference outside of work. Look for ways to maybe use that money that you’re earning at that cushy job that pays well to donate to causes that you care about.

There are many different ways to go about making a difference and an impact in the world.

Mac Prichard:

Just a quick follow-up about pay for nonprofits, Melanie; you’re a recruiter, and you work with a lot of nonprofits, so you’re familiar with pay structures across the Pacific Northwest and even the US.

I want to be clear: while nonprofits might pay less than commercial employers, it doesn’t often involve a vow of poverty, does it? It might be lower, but you can still make a decent living. Is that your experience?

Melanie Damm:

Yes, that is correct. So, there is no one organization or no nonprofit that is built the same. A lot of times, if you’re working for a nonprofit that is small and has a low budget, then the starting pay might be lower than a corporate job, but a lot of times, nonprofits, in order to get the best talent, really have upped their game and are offering pretty competitive salaries and even cushy benefits as well.

A lot of nonprofits that are national and larger are paying more competitive wages and have better benefits than their corporate counterparts, so you might want to look for larger nonprofit organizations and definitely look for what the starting wage is right there in the job posting. This is becoming more and more commonplace where potential employers are listing what the pay and the benefits are, so that you don’t get that bait and switch, and so, I think that’s a great thing to look for and really select jobs that are telling you your starting wage and the benefits upfront.

A lot of the larger nonprofits out there really are now trying to be competitive in the marketplace to find great talent, so you might be surprised at how well they pay.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about your suggestions for how to find work that matters most to you, and you talked about this at the start of the segment, Melanie, the importance of identifying your values before you start you job search. Tell us more about why it’s important to do this, to be clear about your values when you want to find work that matters.

Melanie Damm:

You always want to really be clear on what really matters most to you, and this can vary a whole lot but identifying your values as your looking for your next job; it’s really important to be clear about what those are because this ultimately is a place where you’re going to be there up to 40 hours a week or more, so you might as well feel good about what you’re doing and what you’re putting out there into the world.

Again, thinking of your values, this can be, an employer values something like flexibility, transparency, and honesty with employees is great. Other times, you can look at something like, what are the employer’s community engagement initiatives. So, if you look at a potential employer’s website, if it’s a corporate employer, you can look at their corporate giving or community initiatives page of their website and see what sort of community initiatives and causes that employer is supporting, and that’s another great way to identify if your values are matching up with an employer.

There’s lots of different ways to look up a company and think about what you personally value and if that’s reflected in what you’re seeing in a potential future employer.

Mac Prichard:

When you work with candidates as a recruiter, how do you see applicants, Melanie, do this successfully, identify those values, and do that research so that they find that match?

Melanie Damm:

I would say, first of all identifying values before you even look at LinkedIn or a job description or anything else on a company’s webpage. It’s really about doing a personal inventory.

Think about the jobs that you currently have or have had in the past and what made you feel good. Whether it was talking to people all day long and being social versus being outdoors, things like that, those really are values that a lot of people don’t even think about but are really important when thinking about a job.

Again, thinking about, “Do I want to compromise on schedule and pay, things like that, to get these things that are important to you.”

And there’s always some sort of trade-off and some sort of compromise. So, really, before you’re applying for a job, sitting down and thinking about, “What can I compromise on, and what can I really not compromise on?”

Whether that be pay, benefits, or what this employer is putting out there into the world, and what that means to the world, and ultimately, the impact that it’s making.

Mac Prichard:


We’re going to take a break, Melanie. When we come back, Melanie Damm will continue to share her advice on how to find a job that matters to you.

Stay with us.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Melanie Damm.

She’s a recruitment consultant at the Equitable Hiring Group. Her firm helps nonprofits, and impact-driven companies hire.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.   

Now, Melanie, before the break, we were talking about trying to find a job that matters to you, and you have a number of suggestions on how to do this.

Number three on your list of steps to take is to consider what a job that matters to you looks like to you. Tell us more about this.

Melanie Damm:

Almost envisioning yourself in the day-to-day on this job. Common questions that candidates ask when they go in for job interviews is, “What does the day-to-day look like in this job?”

And so, that’s something that is really important to think about. A lot of people think about values in all of the ways that I said earlier: is there a cause, flexibility, benefits, things like that are important, but also think about what are you doing for eight hours a day and is it something that gives you energy.

You don’t want to take a job that’s exhausting because even if it’s something that does good in the world, you’ll still burn out, and so you won’t be there very long, and so the impact won’t be as strong. Always think about, what it is that I like doing. Do I like being outside? Do I like working around other people? Am I more of a spreadsheet and data person?

People have all sorts of different skills and things that give them energy and so that’s something that’s really important to think about before you’re applying for a job. Make sure it’s something that’s going to be a little bit of fun.

Mac Prichard:

Any tips, Melanie, about how to take these reflections and translate them into something that you can use as you begin to go out and look for opportunities? What have you seen work with the candidates that you’ve worked with as a recruiter?

Melanie Damm:

Yeah, something that I’ve seen work with candidates really well is, as you’re thinking about these values and these things that are important to you, whether that is a cause that you care about or flexibility, benefits, money, making sure that you’re writing those things down, because all of those things can be keywords in a search.

If you’re searching on Indeed or LinkedIn or another job search website, keying those things in as keywords, you don’t just have to put Data Analyst. You can also put benefits and see what sorts of benefits come up, and the more specific you can be with those keywords around what you’re looking for, the better the results will be and the more fitting they will be.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned in the first segment the benefits of doing some research on an organization before you apply. Once you have this list of what matters to you, what a job that matters to you looks like, and you’ve, say, done that keyword search, are there other steps that you recommend to help applicants identify the organizations that are going to provide work that matters to them?

Melanie Damm:

Yeah, definitely. So, a couple of real quick things that are really important that I would recommend everyone, even if they’re not looking for a job that matters to them, always ask, if you’re in a job interview or if you know someone who works at that company, what is it like working there? Is this job meaningful to you?

The best way to get an impression of whether or not an employer or a job is going to be rewarding and meaningful is talking to other people who are also in that job, or who are also working for that employer and see what they think, and that can be something as simple as asking during your job interview, “Hey, what is it like working here?” And really paying attention to what people say.

Mac Prichard:

What kind of answers should you look for and what kind of responses might give you pause when you have that conversation?

Melanie Damm:

Good question. The answers that are always a really good green flag are answers where they talk about flexibility, being about to go home at five o’clock and not staying late, the people that you work with. Again, the answers that you’re going to want to hear should be in line with those notes that you took of what your values are and seeing if they really line up.

It could be that someone that you’re talking to in a job interview says, “Yes, I love it here. It’s the best 60 hours of my week. I love cleaning the toilet in the restroom. That’s part of everyone’s job here.” I’m exaggerating, but you get the point.

There could be something where someone is saying it, and it sounds exciting, but ultimately, at the end of the day, this isn’t something that is going to be exciting to you, and those are really good things to pay attention to, but conversely, someone could talk about flexibility, benefits, the team that they’re working on and all of those things are really, really important.

Making sure that you’re aware of, what are those answers that you’re hearing, and how does that line up with what you’re personally looking for.

Mac Prichard:

You’ve mentioned several times, Melanie, the importance of looking for a job that gives you energy. What’s the best way to get clear about what energizes you?

Melanie Damm:

Yeah, so if you’ve had a few jobs before, you might already know this, and it might be something that you don’t even think about. Again, if you are someone who really likes to have movement and a variety of things to do during the day, if you like to get up and walk away from your desk, then a job where you’re doing spreadsheets all day long is not going to energize you very much, is it?

Think about, what my personal style is and what gives me energy personally. Even if I’m not at work, even if we’re not talking about a job. Is it being around other people? Is it doing art or something creative? Do you want something that really gives you a lot of energy because you have the room to be creative at what you’re doing?

Think about those things and think about what does this look like at a job. Obviously, no one is going to apply for jobs where you’re paid to doodle all day long, but there are a lot of jobs where that degree of creativity is a lot stronger and where people have a lot more flexibility to be creative in what they do. It’s really important to look at a job and think about, “Okay, is this something that I can picture myself doing and it’s something that I think is going to be fun?”

Mac Prichard:

What difference can doing a job that energizes you make in giving your work meaning?

Melanie Damm:

Yeah, so if you have a job that energizes you, a, you’re more likely to stick around and have a longer tenure at your job, which means that you can be doing more and putting more out there into the world for a longer period of time. Obviously, if you’re staying at a job for a longer amount of time, then you’re probably going to derive more meaning from it, and you’re probably going to have a higher rate of satisfaction than you would otherwise.

That’s just what the data tells us, but in terms of having a job that gives you energy, that is really important because you want to be happy at the end of the day. You want to feel like you are energized. You’re not going home and needing to crash; you want to come back, day after day, week after week.

Mac Prichard:

Sometimes, people find work to do that matters to them outside of a day job. Tell us more about this, Melanie, and why it can be a good choice for some people.

Melanie Damm:

Absolutely. So, it really could be that you’re looking for that dream nonprofit or that dream B Corporation or even a corporate job that has an amazing community engagement platform, but there are no jobs that are a good fit for you, or there are no jobs that you’re qualified for, and really, the job and the career that is a fit for you is not meaningful and maybe is not putting a lot of good out into the world.

That happens. We live under capitalism, and that’s okay, too, and I think just being really clear and intentional about that and carving out space to volunteer, and to donate, and to get involved in those causes that you really do care about outside of work. And I’ve even seen people take those interests outside of work and those causes that they really care about, and bring them to their employer to get their employer involved.

Either in terms of group volunteering for the company or even employer donations; those things are always possible as well. Really, be creative and look outside of just your 9-5 and the work that you’re doing, and think about, “Okay, how do I want to make a difference in the world? Whether that’s a part of what I’m doing all day long at my desk or not? And how can I really grow and shape that and make it something that reflects me and what I want to be doing?”

Mac Prichard:

It’s been a terrific conversation, Melanie.

Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Melanie Damm:

I am a recruiter. I work with a couple of partners for a small organization called Equitable Hiring Group. I primarily work with nonprofit organizations all over the Pacific Northwest, and I also have partners that do searches in other parts of the country, as well.

If you are interested in a nonprofit job, definitely go to and see if there’s any job openings that might be a fit for you, and also, if you’re an employer, if you’re looking to recruit great talent to your team, you can also go to to get in touch.

Mac Prichard:

We’ll be sure to include the URL for your website in the show notes and the website article about the episode, Melanie.

I know you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and when they do reach out to you, I hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Melanie, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to find work that matters to you?

Melanie Damm:

The one thing that I’d like people to remember is that finding work that matters to you is always going to be a moving target. Don’t get upset or stressed out if it doesn’t look the way that you imagined at first. Your career is always going to be changing, you are always going to be changing, and if you don’t like the way that it is today, you can always change it.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Elora Arding.

She’s the people and culture manager at Portland Audubon.

Her organization protects birds and habitat, fights climate change, and advocates for access to nature.

Applying online has become a common part of the job search.

And as the practice has grown in popularity, employers say they see candidates make the same errors again and again.

Join us next Wednesday when Elora Arding  and I talk about four online application mistakes to avoid.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List.

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.