Bobak Saadat studied BSc Social Anthropology at LSE, graduating in 2015. After interning at LSE Careers he’s now Fundraising Product Officer at Child.org, a small charity focused on supporting children through social enterprise. One of these products he manages is Charity Apprentice – the course in charity, run by charity professionals.
I had never worked in the voluntary sector before my current job. I’ve always pictured myself working in a career that benefits other people. However, my attraction to my current role wasn’t just an inclination towards the charity sector: it was a project management role where I could be creative, take risks and build products (small businesses). This was a natural fit for both my skills and my interests after a year of engaging with everything entrepreneurial whilst working at LSE Generate (the entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship hub at LSE Careers). When the role came up on LSE CareerHub it immediately intrigued me but like many charity jobs was only advertised very briefly so I had to take the opportunity to apply quickly!
I know first-hand that there is a burgeoning desire amongst LSE students to combat the world’s problems, whether that is eradicating global poverty, curing cancer or simply have a direct positive impact in the lives of millions of people.
However, charity jobs can be notoriously difficult to apply for. Students often report confusion about what charity jobs are available, where to apply for them and how to gain relevant experience. Many more find it impossible to get their foot on the career ladder without having to work for free in unpaid internships for months on end.
At the same time, charities often find recent graduates lack basic knowledge of how charities operate and simple skills in fundraising and communications. So how do applicants with a desire to change the world bridge this knowledge and skills gap?
Locate what the organisation wants
Our work environment at Child.org is driven by our desire to do what works in order to make sure every child deserves an equal opportunity. Given that we are a relatively small team, it is important that each member of the team is able to think on their feet, as we have to manage varying workloads and multiple projects simultaneously. We therefore value candidates who are able to demonstrate the ability to manage projects and display good time management. Larger charities may have different priorities for their graduate recruits.
Find out what the organisation wants in an employee. Ask questions of people in positions which you aspire to: what do they actually spend their days doing? Is it a prerequisite to have regional knowledge or are practical skills (such as Excel skills or accounting skills) more important in that particular role? This approach will enable you to focus on getting across really matters in the job application.
Become acquainted with how charities operate
Given that charities often have lower budgets for advertising jobs than the private sector, and fewer resources for running graduate programmes, the structure of charitable organisations is often hidden behind the scenes. As a result of this (and the low public profile of charity admin), people often underestimate how much resource is invested in departments other than campaigning or policy. Find out what kinds of roles exist in each organisation and examine which roles would suit you.
Don’t just rely on job boards
Advertising jobs costs money. So, charities will tend to avoid extensive advertising on job boards. Instead they will recruit ‘just-in-time’ using short timescales on job listings and will often recruit from a pool of volunteers or interns that they already have experience working with. Explore offline as well as online – network, go to events, reach out to people you find inspiring and talk with friends to find out what opportunities you can find.
Get experience and hone your passion
Once you’ve narrowed down what you want to do, you’ll need to acquire the necessary experience. Make sure you look at a few job specifications which go into more detail than job adverts as to the essential and/or desired qualities. Then think about the ways you can accumulate that experience.
For many roles, you won’t necessarily have to have worked in a charity to get the experience (though having charity experience certainly could help). For example, you could get good project management experience by running an active society at university or you could demonstrate your fundraising prowess by setting up your own initiative as part of RAG.
You should also think about the type of causes that you will want to champion. Whilst these might not be directly related to your future employment, it might be a useful way to focus your job search and gradually develop expertise within a subset of the charity sector.
What else can I do?
Child.org has spent two years working with experts from across the sector to develop Charity Apprentice: a year-long course that anyone can do in their spare time to gain entry-level charity skills. Free for students and recent graduates in 2017, Charity Apprentice aims to give anyone a route into learning about charity and a way to gain the experience they need to start a rewarding career in the sector.
The takeaway point is this: finding the right job for you in the charity sector (indeed, any sector) and being an attractive candidate is a combination of showing your passion for an organisation’s vision as well as demonstrating how your skills fit a specific job role. Don’t rely on thinking your passion will be enough to get you through the application process. Also, you need to be pro-active in your search – jobs will come around but they might not be advertised for very long.
David Coles, LSE’s Volunteer Centre Manager, recently blogged on how to find a job in the Charity sector too. In it, he highlights the following resources as being a good place to start if you’re interested in working in the sector:
Both online and face-to-face networking can be a great way to hear about potential recruitment opportunities in the sector, as well as job listings and events on CareerHub, but there are several other recommended key resources:
- Charity Jobs
- Harris Hill
- Bond – for international development roles
- The Guardian
- Organisations such as Charityworks and Worthwhile work on behalf of many charities to offer excellent graduate schemes.
LSE Careers also organises regular opportunities to network with LSE alumni working in the voluntary sector through our Meet an Alum programme. Remember you can come in and see one of our careers consultants one-on-one for further support, including getting your applications checked!