Charity Sector Jobs: How to Get Your First

Written by Steven Marwick
Author

Charity sector jobs or “third sector” jobs can be very rewarding to work in, filled with real challenges and motivated people who want to make a difference to the world we live in. Some find it a challenging sector to get started in, so we have compiled some handy tips below for how best to present yourself in order to get your foot in the door. 

Securing your First Charity Sector Job

Quality CV and Covering Letter

It is important to have a good CV and covering letter when applying for charity sector jobs, so it may be worth visiting our pages focused on helping with these in order to brush up on your skills before going any further. 

Charity Sector Jobs and Volunteering Work

Be sure to emphasise any volunteering work that you have done, even if you think it may be irrelevant in terms of the skills used, compared to the job you are applying for. This is because the charity sector places great value on volunteering work. 

Being able to demonstrate that you have given freely of your time for something that you believe in will help to show that you have what it takes, in terms of attitude and commitment to flourish in the sector. 

Let Your Passions Show

More than with most sectors, the third sector views itself as a place where people with strongly held principles decide to work. Avid environmentalists may seek to work for Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd while people who are more animal-focused may want to work for the League Against Cruel Sports or Animal Defenders International. Those who struggle with seeing people living on our streets may apply for jobs with Shelter or Crisis while those who have a military background may wish to work with Help for Heroes. 

Emphasise Your Transferable Skills

There is a lot more emphasis on interpersonal skills and transferable skills in this sector than in many others. There seems to be a much greater focus on who you are as a person, so bring your whole self to work and let your personality shine through. We all bring a wide range of skills with us from our previous training, education and employment and these can look different from person to person. 

Some people will have picked up excellent IT skills and are able to locate things on the internet that nobody else can seem to find. Other people will be great at taking the lead when it comes to meetings and facilitating them in a way that everyone feels seen and heard. 

There will be some who are wizards with spreadsheets and statistical analysis while others will have learned how to make people feel supported and at ease in their company. All of these come under the umbrella of transferable skills and are valued in the third sector.

Many of the specific skills that are required for your first charity sector job can be picked up within the workplace. Some recruiters are actually looking for people who haven’t yet developed them so that they can guide and mentor this process, for the benefit of both the employee and the organisation. 

Being presented with a blank canvas for learning a new role can mean that the role can grow along with the worker and their abilities. Being interested in the sector and how to meet the challenges that it faces are far bigger assets than any individual skill when getting started.

Remember that Diversity is Seen as a Strength

The charity sector seems to attract people from more diverse backgrounds than most other sectors in the UK. A major reason for this is that charities seem to be well ahead of the curve in things like introducing pronouns into the workplace and were early adopters of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) frameworks.

EDI frameworks help to formalise and put in place structures for supporting people with protected characteristics in the workplace. These range from how to attract applicants from these demographic groups in the first place, to how we can ensure that unconscious biases are acknowledged and accounted for when shortlisting and interviewing job candidates. We provide a job advert screening service for businesses looking to write inclusive job adverts.

Avoid Getting Pigeonholed as a Volunteer

It can be hard to make the step from volunteering at a charity to becoming a paid member of staff and this is because sometimes volunteers are doing a lot of the work and have made themselves indispensable in their current role. 

This isn’t something that people do deliberately, it is just that sometimes they are so passionate about the organisation and get so into their role that they end up taking on more and more work until they are the only person who knows how certain things are supposed to work. 

It is something that happens especially often in charity shops where some volunteers end up knowing more than the managers and could very easily do their job, but the manager isn’t going anywhere and there is no budget locally to pay more staff so they reach a dead end.

In order to progress to paid employment in the charity sector, it is sometimes best to seek a job outwith the organisation that you volunteer for already for precisely this reason. It may be further outside your comfort zone but that sometimes just means that it is healthy growth for you.

First Charity Sector Job – Next Steps

If you have decided that you would like to make a move to the charity sector, you should evaluate your experience and collate any information you would like to add to your CV. 

The charity sector is particularly good for people who are seeking employers who are sympathetic to diversity and also for acceptance and accommodation of disabilities. 

If you are looking to refresh your career by entering the third sector, the best way to proceed would be to look at a relevant job board. Our career change job board lists many of the latest opportunities for people who are seeking new opportunities.

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