Following on from the previous article about the third sector, many thanks to Emma McGowan, formerly Business Development Manager at Charityworks, and now of Let’s Work Better Together for her excellent guest post on advice for students wanting to develop a career in the third sector:
- Don’t apply for everything! I know students will feel like they can’t afford to be too picky, but in the charity sector this is actually quite important. Its very easy to see applications that have just been copied, pasted and edited slightly from job to job. Flatter the organisation, know something about their cause or recent campaign or share some insight. They will want to know that you connect to their cause. You will have a much greater success rate if you really consider your options and spend a good amount of time on fewer applications.
- Know the bigger picture. Its important to know about some of the wider issues affecting the sector, like the political climate, economic climate. Be able to reference how these issues are affecting organisations in the voluntary sector if asked, or be able to ask the question to them. It will show you an ability to think outside of the here and now and show leadership material.
- You won’t get to change the world everyday, so don’t expect to. This is a hard sector to work in, it is by no means the easy option. We all want to change the world, make a positive social impact, affect change – but with that can’t happen without a hell of a lot of hard work. Show willing to be involved in the mundane tasks and be realistic in interviews about what you might be doing on a day to day basis, we all have to start somewhere. Humility goes down well in our sector! Or if you really want to change something, show you’ve done something about it..
- Consider all your options. I’m still not sure I know what I want to do, or will be doing in 10 years time, so its totally ok for you not to know either. And actually its good, it shows you’re open to options and not closed off about experiences. I worked in the private sector before coming to the not for profit sector and would be totally open to moving back there again, lots of commercial organisations can, and will influence social change. Be open to suggestions, understand that an opportunity can bridge a gap, fulfil experience, give you the chance to do something different. Don’t be put off by something you might have first not considered.
- Stand out from the crowd. The brilliant news in all of this is that quite often employers are inundated with applications that all look and sound exactly the same – so its not going to be hard for you to stand out! Make sure you know who you are and can articulate your narrative so far, don’t be afraid to tell us about you – the real you! The voluntary sector is a place that wants lots of different people. If you’re in a band, tell us. Or you’re a rock climber, or you’ve volunteered at nightlife – tell us why. Employers in this day and age don’t want to see carbon copies of who they’ve hired previously. Make sure your twitter account tells us about you, in a professionally appropriate way. This may be a hard place to work but its so much fun, work is no longer about your corporate persona, its about you and what you can contribute!