First Career Search in the Charity Sector
So, you’re looking to begin your career, or transition your career, to the charity sector? We’ve put together some hints and tips to maximise your job hunt and make sure your CV sells you in the best possible light.
How to approach finding a job in the charity sector
Before you start firing off applications, do some research. Look at job adverts to identify which roles your current skills fit with, as well as looking at charity websites. Finding a charity that aligns with your own values is important, as is showing interviewers that you have an understanding of their particular charity.
Social media can also contribute to your job search. Build a high-impact LinkedIn profile and start making connections. If you want to connect with someone you don’t know personally, make sure you write your own connection request, rather than using the standard LinkedIn template. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. You can also join LinkedIn groups to find out more about the charity sector, roles available and current issues. Showing you have this background knowledge will stand you in good stead during an interview.
Undertaking voluntary work in the charity sector is very well looked upon. It may lead to a paid role with the same organisation, but if not, your CV will show commitment, willing and a basic understanding of the non-profit sector. It’s a great way to build your credibility and also provides the opportunity to network with others already working within the charity sector.
Writing a CV for the charity sector
When writing a CV for a charity role, it’s important to show how your skills, experience and knowledge align with what the charity is looking for. Make it easy for a recruiter to see exactly how you would fit into the role and what you would bring to the organisation.
It’s advisable to include a separate section for voluntary work – this is entirely optional on a corporate CV, but should be quite detailed on a charity CV.
Every role will require different skills, so ensure you read the advert thoroughly and explain how you’ve gained or used each of the skills mentioned. Providing concrete examples to show off these skills will have more impact than simply telling a recruiter you have them.
Even if you’ve never worked in the charity sector before, make sure you highlight any transferable skills from previous roles and activities.
Structuring your CV
Your charity CV should contain the following sections:
Name and contact details
This should go without saying, but only this week I received a CV with no contact details on it. It’s a good idea to include a link to your LinkedIn profile, as well as your phone number and email address, so that a recruiter can check out your online presence and activity.
These 4-10 lines should provide a high-impact overview of who you are, what you specialise in and what you can bring to an organisation. If this is your first job, that can seem like a big ask – build on your qualifications, extra-curricular activities, voluntary work and interests to enable the recruiter to get a solid picture of who you are.
If you have no previous work experience, include your qualifications directly under your profile. Add the names of any university modules relating to charity work or associated skills, and don’t forget to mention any positions of responsibility that you held during this time.
Decide whether your paid or voluntary experience is most relevant to your application. List this work in reverse-chronological order. As well as including your basic responsibilities, don’t forget to add the skills you acquired and your achievements.
Achievements are an often-overlooked part of a CV, but showing a recruiter how you added value to an organisation is something that will really set you apart from other applicants. If you can quantify your achievements, you’ll gain even more credibility.
Any work you have not directly relating either to charity work or the specific role you’re aiming for should be in this section. You don’t need to go into as much detail, but the same rules apply – include your responsibilities, skills gained and achievements.
This section enables you to highlight additional skills – for example language skills may be relevant in an international charity or in a role where travel is required. IT skills are also increasingly in demand as charities use social media and websites to expand their reach.
What not to include
Anti-discrimination legislation means that your date of birth, marital status, gender and so on must not be taken into account during the recruitment process. Use this space to sell yourself instead! Photos are not recommended for the same reason.
There is also no need to include names or contact details for your referees – save this for further along in the recruitment process.
Interests rarely add any value to a CV in terms of how you can do a job, but if you have a limited work history then feel free to elaborate on your interests if you can draw any additional selling points from them.
General advice on your CV
Go through every line of the Person Specification for the role and ensure that you have covered every requirement in your CV. This will probably mean that you have to make a few tweaks to your CV for every role you apply for, but a stronger application is more likely to succeed so it’s worth the effort.
Ask a trusted friend, colleague or family member to read through your CV to make sure that it makes sense and has no spelling or grammar mistakes. They may also be able to identify skills or expertise that you’ve forgotten to include.
Applying for charity jobs is very similar to applying for a corporate role, in that your focus needs to be on aligning your CV with the role requirements and person specification to really sell yourself to a recruiter.
If you’d like a free review of your CV, the lovely team at CV Knowhow would be more than happy to help.
I am currently a Senior CV Writer for CV Knowhow and have over 8 years experience writing cv’s for vast numbers of clients. I love supporting people to dissect their careers and aspirations and to help them on their way to achieving their goals. I personally studied Law completing a degree in Glasgow, however never pursued a career in Law, opting instead to work for numerous years alongside charities and third sector organisations continually seeking to have peoples voices heard and influence change.