Volunteering is key to breaking into the third sector
Handily for those who’ve already signed up to volunteer, organising and taking part in voluntary events is essential for getting your first charity job. “You need to stand out from the crowd. This means finding time to volunteer with a charity or community-based organisation,” says Ola Fajobi, global head of human resources at Christian Aid.
Likewise, Henrietta Blyth, people director for Tearfund, says volunteering can even outweigh postgraduate qualifications. “Having relevant experience and skills is more valuable than lots of qualifications. Pick a few charities you fancy working for and write to the relevant member of staff to ask them if you can shadow them for a few days. If they say yes, you have an ideal way of building relationships in the sector.”
You don’t need to be in London to work for a charity
While it can sometimes seem like all charity jobs in the UK are based in London, there are plenty of opportunities to be found in the rest of the country. “Although there are less charities outside of London, there are also less candidates, so don’t see this as too much of a barrier,” says Joe Marsh, fundraising consultant for Prospectus.
Though, due to vast size of London, and its direct flight links abroad where charities may have field programmes, there are undoubtedly more opportunities in the capital. “You have to ask yourself whether you would be prepared to move to give yourself more options,” adds Marsh.
When looking for charity jobs, be adaptable
It’s important to be flexible when looking for your first job. You’re unlikely to land your perfect role immediately, and demonstrating flexible skills will help you stand out from the crowd. “There is a lot to be said for candidates who are multi-skilled or have a number of specialities. You can sell yourself as dynamic, adaptable and an asset to any number of departments,” says Glen Manners, charity business manager for TPP recruitment.
Persevere to get your first charity role
The voluntary sector is competitive so part of breaking into an organisation is simply to keep going, says Andrew Hyland, recruitment manager for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Part of what makes candidates successful is showing your passion to recruiters. “The key is to flesh out why you want to work for a charity with examples of why you share an affinity with them. Quote an article, statistic or something from their website – anything to show that you’ve gone above and beyond can help you stand out,” says Manners.
Create your own third-sector job
To land your first charity job or get promoted, one option is to create your own role, says Carla Miller, managing director of Charity People. Look at the gaps that exist within your charity, which are relevant to your skills and offer to fill them. “I have created my own new job that way at a few different charities,” adds Miller. And if you’re looking for promotion, “sit down with your manager and discuss how you need to develop in order to operate at a higher level – then work towards that”.
Make your job applications clear, tailored and concise
How you write your cover letter can make all the difference when applying for jobs in the third sector. “You need to make sure you absolutely address in your letter the main areas that a charity is looking for, and that you do so in a succinct and well-written way,” says Pasca Lane, head of public relations at Scope.
Hyland agrees: “When you apply, ensure your cover letter includes all the skills and personal abilities highlighted in the job description.”
Likewise, it’s important to make sure your CV is concise so it’s easy for recruiters to see your skills. “CVs should be laid out clearly with skills and achievements at the beginning of the document,” says Sandra Smith, senior consultant at Charisma Charity Recruitment. “Voluntary work is important and should be included on CVs as another skillset. This will help prove you have passion and an interest in the charity’s work.”
*this article was published in the Guardian