So the last post was mainly aimed at people starting out in their degree or still studying and wondering what more they can do to get into the charity sector. And I’d definitely say it’s never too late to get started on gaining work experience!
The next part of this post is for the soon to be or current graduates who are looking ahead to their future. If you skipped straight to this post Sarah studied Criminology at Southampton and you should maybe read the first paragraph of the previous post to give you a bit more background.
So after interning with British Red Cross in their national events team…
Progressing from Charity intern to Permanent Event Fundraising Co-ordinator
“Within one week of finishing my internship and after 2 interviews and an admin test I got the role of Event Fundraising Co-ordinator sitting within the supporter care team at the national disability charity, Scope
I found out about the role through Charity Job and not my recruitment agency, but I know that without their help on my applications in general I wouldn’t have stood out from the other 60 applicants.
I delivered administrative support to event participants and also took on individual responsibility for areas not utilised such as the teams social media. Just 6 months later I applied for a year’s secondment to the event team as a Challenge Events Fundraiser, managing five account with event organisers, researching new business opportunities, recruiting volunteers and interns and working on event marketing.
A lot of this role was completely brand new to me but I found that I really loved being able to have face to face contact with race organisers whilst also having my desk role. I learnt how to write effective marketing copy for website and e-comms and proved that social media can be used as a free marketing tool. My secondment came to an end a few weeks ago – not only have I been made permanent but I’ve also been promoted to Challenge Event Executive. I’m now responsible for 2/3 of the event portfolio including our flagship event, London to Paris 24, alongside other areas. I use my statistics skills daily, putting together budgets for new events. I also use the skills I learnt in my research modules to interview event participants for their stories to be used on social media and in marketing. Clearly none of the criminological content of my modules directly relates but a lot of my sociological content does” (YAY SOCIOLOGY!)
“Scope are all about making this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Sarah’s Favorite part of her role and work ethic
“Being able to hear participant’s personal reasons for supporting Scope is by far my favourite part of the role. I recently met a guy who has now raised over £15,000 by taking part in the London Marathon this year. His son had to go through 6 months of rigorous tests before being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This kind of dedication from our supporters makes you forget about the stress and admin behind all the events. I’m lucky that I have a manager who encourages us to take a lunch break and leave the office at 5pm – without this is would be very easy to become completely absorbed in your work, but it would go against you in the long run. No event participant taking on an IRONMAN or marathons wants to talk to someone who’s burned out and can barely open their eyes!
I see life as a balance – yes, it’s great to see the difference our event fundraising can make but at the same time you have to be able to see yourself. I make sure that I enjoy my hobbies and life just as much as my job. I’m actively involved in my riding club committee and competitions and I still volunteer at RDA.
When I sit back and take stock of just how much has happened in the past few years it really is quite staggering – I’ve gone from being unemployed to my second promotion in 18 months. I’ve been pushed to develop skills in areas I didn’t even know I had an interest in such as Google Analytics and search engine optimisation. As part of my role I now recruit and line manage event interns, the very role that got me where I am today.
Certainly without my part-time job at the Uni and subsequent internships it would have taken me a lot longer to get a solid career underway. I know unpaid internships get a lot of stick in the press but for me if you’re really determined to work in a specific sector they can be a stepping stone to amazing things.”
It’s always interesting when looking at student or graduate applications, I have written about my insights into what students need to improve on before but what does Sarah look for in an intern?
“When I’m looking through CV’s I immediately go to the candidates experience – it’s great if you’ve got a degree and top A Levels but I really want to see that you care about getting a break in to this industry. And a top tip – make sure that when you’re sending a cover letter you’re actually sending one that relates to the job… I’ve had a lot of applications with cover letters that don’t match just because someone hasn’t tailored it to the role.”
Lessons, inspiration and looking to the future…
“I can only speak from a charity/events point of view but I’m sure that this can be applied to many different roles – by far the most valuable thing I’ve learnt is to imagine your career sector as a very small one where everyone knows each other. So much of hearing about new roles coming up is who you know, what not you know. The same goes that if you do something that is really not impressive a potential employer may hear about it… I’m a member of the event manager’s forum – I’d definitely suggest joining these kinds of networks as soon as they’re available to you.”
“Will I stay in charity events forever? Probably not, there’s still something about the police service that is pulling me but I feel that social work may be a better fit. For now my career is providing me with the perfect platform to learn brand-new skills that can be applied to a huge range of careers. The best piece of advice that I can give is that as long as you go in to any role with the idea that you’re going to take as much from it as possible, whether it be your dream one or not, you’ll always succeed.”
Who do I look up to? Well I think it’s great to hear MP’s like Theresa May recognise that women make up two thirds of the voluntary sector workforce. She encourages greater openness on gender equality and encourages organisations to address the issues that women can face in the workplace, and to help attract, retain and promote talented women to the very highest levels. “After all, our future economic prosperity requires that we make full use of the skills and experiences that women bring to our economy.” Shame that the majority of charity CEO’s are men – there’s nothing stopping you or me from aiming to change that.
I felt really inspired by the story Sarah sent me and it really does make me kick myself (again) that I didn’t do more when I studied. I hope people have found this interesting and that they see the merit in doing everything you can to enhance your degree. I also hope this drive home the message that you can still achieve something great even if you don’t reach a 2:1.
If you have any questions you can contact Sarah here