Finding Purpose in Non-Profit: Stephen’s Story
When do you know if it’s time for a career change? Is it five or ten years down the line when you’ve stopped being challenged by the work you’re doing? Or is it a decision formed from the different events you encounter in your life?
We can’t always predict the route we end up taking, but unexpected events can often be a catalyst for positive development, which is exactly what Stephen Clarke discovered when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Through the support of family and several key charities, Stephen realised he was ready for a new path. Two years later, he had a clean bill of health and was planning his transition into full-time charity work.
‘The CharityJob website was a huge help for me in finding out more about the sector, tips for interviews and updating my CV. The short videos made by CharityJob told stories of people who had made the move into charity work and seeing how happy they looked gave me even more motivation to make the move.’
Discovering a new passion for giving back
Before getting sick, Stephen worked in logistics for nearly two decades, primarily for large companies. He enjoyed the fast-paced element of the job, hitting (or surpassing) targets daily. In his spare time, he managed his own events company, planning and promoting concerts. Needless to say, he had a lot on his plate.
‘‘After a while, the high pressure and stress were beginning to wear me down. So the thought of changing careers had already begun before my life took a drastic and unexpected turn.’
In May 2014, Stephen was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which later spread to the lymph nodes in his chest and abdomen. It was an eighteen-month battle that culminated in a stem cell transplant from Anthony Nolan, which literally saved his life.
‘Throughout this journey, I was supported in many different ways by some amazing charities. Macmillan Cancer Support helped me and my family, and Anthony Nolan found a stem cell donor for me. I promised myself during this time that if I ever made it, I would dedicate my life to helping others one way or another on a full-time basis.’
Breaking into the non-profit sector
Stephen had never worked in the third sector before, so it took a bit of research and preparation to find the right organisation and pinpoint the exact career path he wanted to pursue. He signed himself up for as many job mailing lists as possible, including CharityJob, and adapted his CV. But the journey was rough. All the applications were overwhelming and the only responses he was got were polite rejections.
It was hard to keep a positive spin on things, especially after everything he had gone through. But he was passionate about the work he wanted to do and used the feedback from his previous interviews to build up his confidence and improve his application strategy.
‘It can definitely be an overwhelming experience moving from an area you’re familiar with to one you have minimal knowledge of. I knew that my dedication and commitment was there, I just had to fill in the gaps and make sure that I could absorb as much as possible.’
Finding the right charity job
During his search, Stephen volunteered at local charities to fuel his desire to give back. He wanted to provide that same support to others and be a positive guiding force in someone else’s life. Not only did volunteering provide him with a real taste of what working in the sector would be like, but it gave him the experience he needed to help get his foot in the door and find the right organisation.
‘Working in voluntary roles whilst looking helped to direct me to the kind of positions and charities that more suite me. I originally wanted to work in fundraising. But after spending time volunteering at an overnight homeless shelter and hearing their personal stories, I decided a front-line position was what I really wanted to do.’
In December 2018, Stephen started working for Single Homeless Project (SHP), one of London’s leading homelessness prevention charities. As a Day Concierge at SHP’s King George’s Hostel in Westminster, he was the first point of contact for visitors, which meant dealing with admin tasks, coordinating activities, supporting building maintenance and ensuring all health and safety regulations were met.
‘Knowing that I’m making a positive difference in someone’s life (no matter how small) was way more fulfilling than reaching any high-profit target set by any of my previous companies. I love the personal side of my job, and the training and support offered to me are limitless.’
Why should you consider a career in non-profit?
Despite enjoying his previous role, Stephen realised there was something more meaningful he could be doing in his working life. The impact of being diagnosed with, and beating, cancer was the fuel he needed to make the real change, and he’s never looked back.
‘I’ve been in employment for 24 years and I’ve genuinely never been happier than I am right now. There are huge challenges ahead, but I have an amazing team to work with. I’m excited about what the future holds – the options for moving up the ladder are limitless’
Are you ready to find your first charity job? Explore the non-profit roles available today. For more inspiration, take a look at a few others that have made the change into non-profit.