What Soft Skills Do You Need to Break Into the Charity Sector?
Applying for your first job can be difficult, you’re wanting to gain experience and employers are looking for candidates with experience. All you’re thinking is “c’mon give me a chance!” It’s a catch 22.
But fear not, soft skills presented in the right way may just be what employers for entry-level jobs are looking for. Whether you’re a graduate or choosing to change your career, showing potential in place of technical skills is important. It will illustrate to the employer how great you could be in the position.
So, what are soft skills?
Soft skills are transferable skills and they’re in high demand. You’re likely to have picked up a few at university or in your last job without even realising it, and you’ll be able to take these to the next job no matter the industry.
At university, you learn what it’s like to work to deadlines, complete projects in a group or prepare a presentation. If you’ve volunteered, you’ve learnt how to work under pressure or communicate with people using empathy and compassion. In an office-based job, you experience work processes, giving and receiving constructive criticism and learn how to lead a meeting.
Some examples of soft skills you’re likely to see in a CV or job spec include:
The problem is, many people list off plenty of soft skills but forget to give solid examples. When applying to a specific job ad, it’s important to give examples that are relevant and specific to that role, especially if your brand-new CV lacks experience. Showing what you’ve learnt and where you’ve used these skills is key to moving through to the candidate short list.
Top 7 soft skills for the charity sector
Soft skills are absolutely essential for the charity sector. It’s not enough to just have technical skills – you also need to understand how to embed compassion and creative thinking into everything you do.
Whether that’s empathy from a doctor, trustworthiness from a lawyer or communication skills from a fundraiser, sincerity and interpersonal communication are essential for someone wanting to build a career in non-profit.
If you’re working in charity sponsorship or with the people who directly benefit from the work you do, having negotiation skills can make or break a situation. Understanding how to agree and disagree, when to be a leader and when to observe and be a listener can make a difference when dealing directly with fragile or vulnerable people.
It’s good to be a result driven worker but not at the expensive of arguments and problems. Coming to a win-win solution and learning to negotiate for the best outcome possible is a very appealing trait to employers.
No matter what charity you work for, it’s likely that you’ll have to deal with people in a difficult or emotionally charged situation. Sometimes this can prove difficult for employees and volunteers. Knowing how to calm tensions and deal with different groups of people in a sensitive way is critical for work in the non-profit sector.
This seems like a no-brainer but it’s a very important basic. The best companies and charities out there rely on good teamwork to use funds effectively in all sectors of the business. Wasted time and resources undermine all the supporters of the charity. Showing the employer how to work together in a lean way will make you a standout candidate.
Being honest in your interviews and illustrating times when things have not gone according to plan is more valuable than everything working out perfectly all the time. Demonstrating to the interviewer that you’ve had to adjust plans for unforeseen events, include last minute changes and deal with obstacles makes you a more appealing and capable candidate. Being able to deal with these roadblocks in a calm and collected way is a sure sign you will be successful in the role.
Feeling comfortable enough to talk to different groups of people shows that you’re a dependable employee. Your manager will feel more confident knowing you’re able to present, fill in for them and address a group of people in a crisis situation. It’s also an effective way to manage miscommunication and relay important information in a quick and engaging way.
Working in the charity sector might mean you’re working with people, animals or those in disaster-hit zones. The work may very well stretch over the normal 9-5 so being organised and keeping any paperwork up to date is definitely a plus. If you’re working in a small charity, this will help keep your workload under control, if you’re in a bigger organisation then it will help you prioritise the many projects going on.
7. A second language
If you’re on the ground, then it’s definitely useful to have a second language up your sleeve. Being able to communicate with different people in different places in their native language will not only build better relationships with the people you’re helping but can also deter from misunderstandings brought about by things being lost in translation.
There are many situations that require you to use a range of skills, think about each soft skill and a time when you’ve used it no matter what the scenario. Having examples in your CV and to hand for interviews is an important box to check. Still not sure how to structure your charity CV? Download our free charity CV template today to get started.