How to Determine if Charity Work is Right for You
For many, charity work isn’t just a career, it’s a lifelong passion. But not everyone working in the sector got there because they knew they belonged there from an early age. In fact, many of the brightest and most successful members of the charity world have moved into their current roles after long and storied careers in the private sector.
The problem is that the path to a job with a charity isn’t always clear cut. There’s no rule book to follow; no sure-fire series of steps you need to take that guarantee you a job in a non-profit. Some people find their way through volunteer work, while others start their own organisations because it’s something they’re immensely passionate about. In other words, you need to forge your own path.
And doing that isn’t always easy. That’s why you want to be absolutely sure it’s the right choice for you.
Not sure where to start? Here are three questions you should ask yourself to figure it out.
Why are you choosing charity work?
Unlike in most other types of professions, motivations play a big part in the job application process. People work in charities because they want to make a difference, so it makes sense that hiring managers need to see this passion straight from the get-go.
The people who succeed are there for all the right reasons. Those who are not don’t last long. So before embarking on the journey to a career in the charity sector, it’s important to figure out the reasons you’re doing it.
For example, if you’re looking for a career that will pay you handsomely from the beginning, charity work probably isn’t for you. If you’re more concerned with personal and professional fulfilment, have a strong desire to make a difference in the world and want to devote yourself to a cause you care about, then you’re likely a good fit.
If you’re interested in charity work but aren’t totally ready to commit full-time, consider one of the many worthwhile volunteer opportunities in the sector where you can still make a big contribution without going all-in.
Are you willing to build diverse skills?
If you’re looking to build a foundation at university, there aren’t actually many degree programs that deal specifically with charity work.
Those that do are almost all geared toward those who want to manage charity organisations—and those positions are hard to come by. That means graduates looking to find a place in the charity sector will have to bring a diverse and unique skill set to the table that’s cobbled together from other fields.
Most of the time, successful job seekers will possess a degree in one of several specialities that are applicable to charity work. They include:
It’s important to realise that you might need skills that encompass several of these fields to succeed in the charity sector, and it might take a bit of time and effort to acquire them. In preparation for the career you want, you can do all of the right things, like interning and taking online courses, and still not land a coveted charity position—so it’s critical to know what you’re signing up for beforehand. You also might need to build skills in additional areas to add to your CV such as project management or the ability to speak multiple languages if you want to stand out enough to attract the attention of a charity hiring manager.
But the good news is that you don’t actually need a degree to work for a charity. In fact, there’s even a growing movement known as #NonGraduatesWelcome that are actively encouraging non-profits to stop filtering out qualified candidates with the phrase ‘degree-level qualification required’. As long as you have the practical skills and expertise, you’re eligible to apply.
How concerned with stability are you?
It’s a given that nobody sets out on a career path with the idea that they might struggle to achieve job security. For those in the charity sector, however, economic ebbs and flows can have an unplanned effect on your future prospects. It’s not uncommon for charities to expand and contract based on their funding streams, which can change in response to a variety of factors.
For that reason, anyone who wants to work in the charity sector needs to be ready to accept a bit of career instability, particularly early on. You may have to accept contract work and do quite a bit of volunteering while you build out your qualifications to secure a more permanent position. If that kind of uncertainty isn’t your cup of tea, you may not be willing to ride out the early days of your charity career path to get to where you want to be.
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Doing well by doing good
If you’ve considered these three questions and have determined that charity work is right for you, you’re about to embark on a journey that will lead you to some of the most fulfilling work you can imagine. If not, that’s fine too. Charity work is rewarding, but not always easy, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that.
Either way, the very fact that you’re putting this kind of thought into your decision shows you to be someone who cares for others in a way that’s not at all common in today’s society—and that alone is reason to be proud, no matter what you ultimately decide.