Working for a charity might sound really noble, but is it actually where you want to end up? After all, charities aren’t exactly famous for paying out the big bucks, and, since you’re going to be working hard to save the whales, or dogs, or political prisoners, you’re going to find it much harder to insist on clocking off at five PM every day.
If you’re going to try applying for charity jobs, then you’re going to have to be prepared to go the extra mile ever day. If it’s not a cause that you genuinely care about, then you’re going to burn out fast. Yet, despite this, it’s intensely competitive. Jobs in the charity sector are hotly contested, and you’re going to have to bring your A game if you want to stand a chance.
So, what’s in it for you?
A Steep Learning Curve
Working for a charity means being able to pitch in wherever necessary, so before long you’re going to be picking up skills that are way outside your job description. This might sound like another tick in the “Con” column at first, but you’ll soon see the benefit when it’s time to fill out your CV.
A lot of people, having started out in the charity sector, get a taste for it, but if you want to move into other fields afterwards, the skills you pick up here are going to highly transferable, as will the dedication you’ll have shown just by working for a charity in the first place.
A Chance to Build Experience
Aside from the actual skills you’ll be picking up, charity jobs are also a great place to build up more generalised experience. The job market at the moment is tough, and if you’re fresh out of university and looking for work, you’re going to competing with plenty of people who have more experience, but have found themselves flung into the job market non-the-less.
One answer to this is to work for free, and Lord knows the government has been trying to encourage this with bright ideas like the Workfare Scheme. But working for free does still feel a lot like, well, working for free. Even if it’s in a field you’re interested in you can still feel like you’re being taken for a ride.
Volunteering with a charity can bring you the same experience offered by unpaid internships, but with the knowledge that you’re going to be doing some good at the same time. Stick around long enough, and you may find your voluntary position transforming into paid work. At the very least, it’ll put you in a better position to apply elsewhere.
That Warm Fuzzy Feeling Inside
There are a lot of jobs out there that can really grind you down. Telesales jobs, where you spend large chunks of your day being abused by people whose dinner you just interrupted. There are insurance jobs, where you spend large chunks of your day informing people that, due to the small print on their contracts, they aren’t actually covered for any of the horrible things that just happened to them, or data entry jobs where you aren’t actually upsetting anyone, but you can feel your life draining away with every second you’re there.
Perhaps this is the biggest reason people go into the charity sector. Yes, you have to put in the extra hours, you have to be flexible about your job description, and you aren’t going to get paid as much as you could for an equivalent job in a different field. But at the end of the day the work you’re doing matters.
In your working life there will be plenty of times when you don’t want to get up in the morning, or where the workload is getting you down. But the big difference about working in the charity sector is that when you ask yourself why you bother with your job, there’s a really good answer.