Why Your First Job Should be in Charity

3 minute read

It can feel daunting to have to choose a career as a young person, particularly in the current pandemic climate. If that’s something you’re struggling with, you’re not alone. The London School of Business and Finance research shows 68% of young people are effectively undecided about their career, but willing to change their occupation in the future.  

If you’ve only just entered the working world, it’s safe to assume your first job is not going to be the final one. But how do you equip yourself with useful skills that will come in handy for a range of future roles? If you’re undecided or unsure about your career path, consider working for a charity first. 

Why? Because there are many great benefits to gain. Let’s take a look at just a few.  

1. Building a Work Ethic

One of the most difficult habits to build is a robust work ethic. It’s also one that will largely predict your success in any field you choose in the future. No matter how good you are at your job, if you’re regularly absent or missing deadlines, you’re not going to gain any favours from your employer. 

It’s much easier to build a habit of showing up on time and giving it your best if you’re truly passionate about your work. If, on the other hand, you’re doing odd jobs that do not inspire you, you’ll start wishing for the shift to end. Working for charity whose cause you believe in gives you a purpose that will help build a work ethic that last far beyond your first job. 


2. Satisfaction

If you’ve already worked in a dead-end job, you probably know that staying in the same position for a long time may feel rather depressing. It may be a good job, it may even pay handsomely, but when you’re feeling stuck, this may not seem like enough. As many as 83% of people think enjoying what you do is one of the greatest predictors of job satisfaction. 

While a charity position may not pay as well as jobs in the private sector, it’s more likely to give you a sense of doing something worthwhile with your career. And if your role involves working in direct contact with the people your charity supports, you’re going to get a lot of positive human interaction as well. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that charity workers report more overall job satisfaction than the rest of UK residents. 

3. Leadership Experience

Gain leadership skills will propel your career to the next level. It’s also a skill that doesn’t really have a lot of opportunities to manifest when you’re working for a for-profit company. In many, the management structure is rigidand there may be few opportunities for promotion.  

In the charity sector, there’s often a culture of learning from one another, regardless of your position or level of authority, which can lead to the development of more rounded leadership skills. In return, you’ll find your seniors are more empathetic towards you with the less-hierarchical structure. That means that you’ll start building up leadership experience from your very first job in the charity sector. 

Craig Kielburger, the co-founder of WE Charity, speaks quite a lot about leadership when he’s invited to universities. One of the key insights from his speeches is that in a charity organization, the higher-ups are always looking for new ideas. Their management style is also far less rigid which allows entry-level workers to show their leadership skills and be rewarded, not scolded for it.

“Throughout my career to date I’ve also been fortunate to meet many people from all walks of life who have, and continue, to influence me and help me to develop as a leader. I’m always humbled by the selflessness and generosity of volunteers; by the commitment and dedication of colleagues; and by the kindness, encouragement and mentoring from other, more experienced, sector leaders.” 

Menai Owen-Jones, Chief Executive of The Pituitary Foundation and trustee of ACEVO

Charities value people who are willing and able to do many tasks, so there will be many chances to move around internally within a company and work within a range of different departments to develop your skills. 

4. Networking 

When you’re just starting in any career, building skills and meeting the right people is of utmost importance. And we don’t just mean meeting established professionals in your field on the job.  

Charities are full of inspirational people from different backgrounds, each one with interesting and valuable skills and experiences. The sector is small and lends itself to networking and finding a community of people with the same values as you.   

Social interaction forms a big part of charity work and is likely to lead to a range of opportunities, some of which you might not have even considered. There may be a chance to work with beneficiaries on the ground, or even international postings and the chance to travel, postpandemic. 

network in the charity sector

A great start to your career 

While all your friends might be taking on their corporate grad schemes or apprenticeships, working long hours for only a monetary reward, a career in charity means working for a cause you feel passionate about helping make a change in the world. Since many charity jobs allow young employees to share ideas and take the lead, you’ll also have a fantastic chance to develop from the very outset. 

So what are you waiting for? Why not read the Charity Careers Guide and take a look at the charity jobs currently out there? 

Michael Doer

Michael Doer is an independent writer with a focus on digital marketing, career, and business advice. His first job was at a charity that gave him the skills to succeed in his career. Reach Michael on Twitter at @MichaelDoer to ask about anything.

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