The Interpersonal Skills You’ll Need to Thrive in a Charity Job

5 minute read

While the majority of charities continue to work remotely, we’ve all come to realise that effective communication has never been so important. Of course it’s now conducted mainly online and via various teleconferencing tools, but the same interpersonal skills apply. And all charities place a high value on these. But what are the key interpersonal skills to develop and how can you showcase yours to a prospective employer?

1. Teamwork

Strong teamwork skills are highly valued by many employers, but in the charity sector they’re arguably even more important. This is because the sector faces a range of unique challenges, including having to adapt to frequent changes in government policy and the need to take into account the views of trustees, employees and volunteers who often have strong, passionate views. Charities are also particularly impacted by resource scarcity.

An important element of teamwork is reliability. You want to be a reliable team member so that your co-workers can trust you to deliver projects on time and on budget and to complete the tasks that you’ve set out to do. Sticking to deadlines will help you gain your colleagues’ trust.

Active listening also comes hand in hand with teamwork. Always ask questions for clarification, help your colleagues build on ideas that they put forward in meetings, and be prepared to change your perspective on a given project, even if you feel strongly about something.

2. Leadership

Leadership is part of this sector’s DNA. Think about all the changes made by grassroots self-starters, campaigners and change-makers in this industry. That’s why you’ll want to give prominence to those skills. Any situation involving organising and guiding others towards a common goal requires good leadership.

There has been an increasing focus on leaders in the public and private sectors learning from each other and sharing ideas. There are naturally differences in the regulatory, funding, and strategic challenges, but, as the NCVO observes, business skills of private sector leaders can help develop innovative fundraising streams and digital solutions.

3. Empathy

Empathy is another key interpersonal skill. Often referred to as ‘emotional intelligence,’ it plays a big part in creating a pleasant working environment. It’s more important than ever before in the current pandemic climate, where uncertainty permeates the lives of so many people. When we conducted a survey with did with our recruiters, we found that It’s one of the key transferable skills they look for in candidates wanting to move into the sector. This Is largely because you’ll need empathy for the cause that your charity supports, but also the ability to understand others who are in need so that you can work with them in a sensitive way. You’ll do best in our sector If you’re an empathetic person ready to learn from the life experiences of others, which might be very different to your own.

Empathy applies to all roles in the workplace, but is particularly important if you’re a team leader. An empathic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty. As an empathetic manager, you’ll know that success is only reached through and with people. Therefore, an attitude of openness towards understanding of the feelings and emotions of your team members will be highly valued.

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4. Conflict resolution

Some level of conflict in the workplace is inevitable and in particular cases, it can even be positive, such as a healthy amount of competition between team members to reach goals. But negative conflict, which might include bullying, can harm your colleagues and undermine teamworking.

In some cases disputes between staff, volunteers, management boards and trustees can cause permanent damage to the vital work a charity does in the community and negatively affect those who use their service.

That’s why conflict management is a key interpersonal skill needed in any charity. Being able to prevent and defuse conflict using diplomacy, negotiation, assertiveness and respectfulness is a very highly valued asset.

5. Giving and receiving feedback

Feedback is an essential part of any employee’s growth and development, and many charities now have a 360 degree feedback system to support their staff to thrive.

But feedback has to be given constructively to be effective. It should be timely, specific and respectful, and offer actionable suggestions for given areas for improvement. That’s why it’s important for you to develop the skill of giving positive feedback.

It’s also essential to be able to receive feedback in the right way, without getting offended or discouraged. See it as an opportunity to improve your skills and performance and ask for support in reaching the goals that you’ve set for yourself.

How you can demonstrate these skills to an employer

Make sure that you demonstrate your interpersonal skills to prospective employers at every opportunity, beginning with your CV. Your CV summary or profile is usually the first thing that a recruiter will read, which makes it the perfect opportunity to introduce your interpersonal skills right from the start.

E.g. Customer service focused sales manager with 8 years of experience in the charity sector. Specialist in resolving complaints and delivering individualised service through caring customer communication.

In your work experience section, embed interpersonal skills into the goals that you achieved within each role.

E.g. Mentored new team members, bringing them up to speed with the charity’s KPIs and the role they would play in achieving them, offering constructive feedback to help them improve.

If you’re writing a student or a graduate CV, the same point applies to your education section, particularly when it comes to extracurricular activities.

At an interview, you’ll get the opportunity to bring these skills to life and the interviewer may well ask you to describe situations in which you used a particular skill to good effect. Have scenarios prepared in your mind which you will be able to discuss in detail.

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Don’t dismiss the importance of interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are in high demand in the charity sector. Regardless of what stage of your career you’re at, take the opportunity to practice and perfect them. They will definitely benefit both you and your colleagues in the long run. And finally, for the perfect CV, weave in examples of interpersonal skills in each section.

Ewa Jozefkowicz

CharityJob's Content Manager Ewa Jozefkowicz has a passion for all things digital, particularly when it comes to UX and writing engaging copy. In her spare time she likes to travel and devour huge quantities of books.

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