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Want big responsibility in a fast-paced environment? The Charity sector could be a hidden gem!

UCL Careers29 October 2013

Katy Murray graduated with a First from UCL in 2013 with a degree in Ancient World Studies. She is currently interning at the Children’s Heart Federation and gives us her take on breaking into the Charity sector and how you can get big responsibility within a fast-paced environment…

I am a recent graduate, and I am working two jobs to fund an expensive habit; unpaid internships at small charities. It’s not always a glamorous life; I generally work a 6 day week, hibernating on Sundays. I am also occasionally still found in the queue for free curry at SOAS to save some pennies. On the other hand, last week, on the second day of my internship at the Children’s Heart Federation, I was greeted at our small Shoreditch office with “Do you want to come and do some lobbying at Parliament?”  Next thing I knew I was walking the halls of Westminster, having tea with an MP, looking out onto the Thames.

The experience I am getting at this charity is one I would quite frankly pay for. I am now second in command on a campaign which has recently featured on the One Show, Radio Four and BBC Breakfast. On my first day, I was knocking up press releases to be sent out to newspapers nationwide. Not only am I gaining skills that make me more employable, but I get the biggest buzz out of the working on a cause that I really think is valuable.

When I am not getting my fix at the charity, I work as an Applications Adviser at a major London University. The majority of students who come through the door want to work in banking and finance, management consultancy, and pharmaceutical companies; big business, big competition, big salary. There are numerous reasons why students decide to go down this route, but each candidate looks for something to give an edge to their application forms. One of these I have been seeing recently is students saying that they are drawn to the social responsibility initiative which some employers are promoting. Some banks, for example, give their employees time off the volunteer for their communities, which some students seem to find attractive. As a graduate looking to “break in” to the Charity/Not-For-Profit sector, a part of me always wants to ask (but doesn’t): why not work in a sector whose business is social responsibility? Why not seek opportunity in organisations whose “triple bottom line” has always been their bottom line?

One major reason is money. A recent TedTalk by activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta noted that a CEO of a Hunger charity can expect a salary of over $316,000  less  than a Stanford MBA (that’s nearly £200,000). Pallotta also observes “We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interesting that we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping people.” Yet not a single student that I have spoken to has said to me “I want to work for X bank/consultancy firm because they pay more than the others.” Most of the students I see are ambitious, diligent and want to work in these sectors because they want a big career and big challenges, (perhaps as well as a big pay cheque).

Clearly, as someone who, for whatever reason, wants to be a full-time do-gooder, I struggle slightly to understand the will to work in the profit driven cultures of private sector corporations. What I do understand, however, is how it feels to do a job that I am passionate about, and that I get a genuine buzz out of. Therefore I completely respect the fact that there are people in the world, who get geeky at the thought of stocks and figures, risk analysis, and financial instruments. So if you are one of them then I wish you all the best. But if it is just that you’re looking for a job which is about meeting targets, assessing risk, problem solving and big responsibility in a fast-paced and challenging environment, and you want a career with meaning that gives back to your society and your community, then I can tell you the Charity/Not-For-Profit sector will tick every one of those boxes.

This blog post was orginially posted 29th October 2013.