Career Change: Routes to Paid Jobs in the Charity Sector
So, just what can you do if you feel stuck in the corporate labyrinth and want to shift to the charity sector, but find it too inaccessible? Don’t despair, we’ve got some solid advice on how it can be done. Remember, perseverance is important, the world of charity jobs is a lot smaller than the corporate world.
But why the charity sector?
There are many reasons why people want to move into the charity sector; cause often comes top of the list, but people often want to make the change for experience and opportunities not to mention the feeling that you’re making a difference every day. And it seems clear that younger generations (and career changers!) simply aren’t chasing salaries as we might expect, after all, salary is increasingly the least important aspect of a job.
There are plenty of charity career options available and you’ll probably notice that there’s a great deal of variety, all of which can be a rewarding alternative to a corporate career.
Some exciting career options in the charity sector:
- Arts & culture
- International Development
Career shifting to the charity sector is definitely possible and here’s how:
This approach can be essential if you want to work for a smaller charity. They often won’t have enough funds to justify a large amount of paid staff. In fact, volunteering is something you’ll want to consider anyway as the experience is highly sought after in the charity sector.
Choose a cause, if you’re going to work in an unpaid capacity, you may as well work for a charity that is close to your heart. It’s for just this reason that you can search for charity jobs by sector. By volunteering to support a cause which is dear to you, you’ll gain an insight into the sector and make valuable contacts.
Even if it might not lead to a career, volunteer for the experience:
Volunteering for charity can also be a great way of gaining experience. In a job market where unpaid work is as valuable as paid work, volunteering can be a worthy alternative way of gaining charity job experience. If you perform well in a voluntary position, it is not uncommon to be offered a paid job (if the charity’s funds permit it) take a look at what we’ve written around turning a volunteer role into a paid role. You could even look into becoming a trustee, potentially giving you (non-executive) management experience.
“Charify” your current profession
People want to work in the charity sector for all sorts of reasons. People want to leave corporate careers for as many! But it’s essential to be realistic, for example, the animal and international development sectors can often be the most popular, but also the most competitive, where large amounts of workers are unpaid. Now, even in sectors like care and health, there are still vast rosters of dedicated volunteers. In many ways, it is the industry-specific roles that face the most competition.
But there’s good news! If you’re already established in a career, it is likely that demand for that profession exists in the charity sector. There is almost always a need for experienced finance, legal and operations staff. Recent additions such as digital and software development broaden this opportunity even more. As these career paths are well established outside of the third sector, they can prove a great chance to shift into a charity job. If your heart is set on moving careers entirely, then you can always get your foot in the door this and look to change roles internally. So take a look at what you do already… could you do that in the charity sector?
Transferable careers in the charity sector:
Schemes, internships, graduate opportunities
Graduate positions in the charity sector are less common than in the corporate world. Though they do exist, take a look and see what charities have entry level or graduate positions. Even though these jobs can be few and far between, they really are looking for great graduates. Depending on what kind of work you would like to do, there are different schemes available.
Some charity graduate schemes:
- Charityworks: a non-profit graduate scheme, depending on the charities involved and the year you apply, you could end up working in any number of organisations in a wide variety of roles. Applicant selection is competitive but the year-long scheme can be a great way into the sector.
- City year: Whilst not necessarily a graduate scheme, City Year is a funded volunteering scheme for 18-25 year olds, working with children and young people. It can be a great way to gain experience if that is the field you’re looking to work in.
- Worthwhile: Is a placement scheme to connect graduates to charitable organisations, mostly around social action.
- Think Ahead: A Graduate scheme designed to fast track skilled applicants into mental health social work, a career path which is both challenging and rewarding.
- Teach First: A not-for-profit graduate scheme encouraging promising graduates to pursue a career in teaching, there are also opportunities to work for the organisation themselves.
Charites’ also individually run their own graduate opportunities, you can see what CharityJob has to offer. It is worth researching when charities are open for graduate applications and what for. Save The Children, for example, run a graduate trainee program. The general rule here is that larger charities will run these schemes, but smaller, specialised, or local organisations will tend not to have such entry routes. Internships are also available but are much less frequent than in the for-profit sector, a lot of the work which is covered by interns in the corporate world is often voluntary. Though they do exist, take a look at Student Hubs.
Your skills are transferable
They really are, if you have a strong CV and quality work experience, you should never feel that your skills are unwelcome in the charity sector. The requirement for “charity sector experience” often turns candidates off, but remember that you’re qualified to make that application. Just monopolise on the skills that you already have.
Utilise the right skills, apply for the right job:
Apply based on your experience and think about what you’ve done before. Perhaps there is a policy and research position, you might have written research papers in your own sector, or in education. A fundraising position might suit your sales or marketing background, after all, you’re going to spend your days convincing people why they should donate to a worthy cause. Your management experience might be wholly relevant. BUT, the door swings both ways, don’t be offended if your 30 years of experience with operations in the oil and gas industry doesn’t attract advocacy interviews. With every application, you’ll need to show with examples how your work experiences is relevant.
- Apply for positions where skills are realistically transferable
- Show your experience and give examples of how it will apply to the job
- Use skills from any volunteering
- Show genuine interest in the charity and its cause
- Volunteer, fundraise, campaign etc and use it as experience
- Apply with generic cover letters
- Use jargon and industry-specific terms (within reason)
- Give after only a few applications
- Ignore any skills or trades you may already have
- Avoid entry-level positions or perceived side-steps
- Choose a position based solely on salary, or expect the same as your corporate salary
Remember to keep up-skilling at the times, training or courses might just make you stand above the rest of the candidates. Check out the latest courses and training in the charity sector and stay on top.
Be perseverant, switch up your attitude
To wrap up, let’s talk a little about attitude. Be open to the opportunities and challenges of the sector, this might mean great chances for career development, but nothing worth having comes easy. Successful charity sector applications can differ from those in the corporate sector. Values like patience, humbleness, willingness to learn, adaptability and creativity are often more valued than pure experience. Experience counts, but in the end, people are in the charity sector because they care, show that caring attitude and you’re much more likely to get the job.
A little luck, a little insight a little positivity
Some of the conversations on CharityConnect can be illuminating; charity recruiters DO want to hire career changes, they just (often) want some form of a demonstration of commitment to the sector. Many people have made the shift from the corporate sector, a little luck is needed, yes, but mostly perseverance and positivity.
Do you have tips and advice of your own on shifting careers to the charity sector? Why not share them in the comments below? 🙂