By UCL Careers, on 14 October 2014
As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Claire Lilley Head, Head of Child Safety Online, NSPCC talks to us about how she got his role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the Charity sector.
I am Head of Online Safety at the NSPCC. I started my working life as a secondary teacher (which I loved) but after 4 years decided I wanted to see what other jobs existed beyond the world of education. I resigned from teaching with no job to go to, but knowing I could supply teach if necessary to make ends meet. I had to bite the bullet and take a big pay cut, but was lucky enough to get a job as a researcher for Which? Magazine which I did for 4 years, during which time I did a part time Masters in Public Policy and Management. This meant I could apply for a policy role at Which?, working on education and health policy (Which? is a consumer charity as well as a magazine).
However, I’d always felt passionate about working with or on behalf of vulnerable children, so after a couple of years started looking around for jobs in children’s charities. I didn’t have any experience of policy related to child protection, which was a real disadvantage, but at one interview was offered a maternity cover role. It was a risk to leave a steady job at Which? for a short term contract at the NSPCC but it paid off because at the end of the maternity cover I was offered a full time job, and have been at the NSPCC in a variety of roles ever since.
What I do day to day
I love my job because it is so varied. My brief covers all aspects of child safety online including child abuse images, online grooming, cyberbullying, sexting and access to inappropriate content online. I am responsible for the policy (the ‘what the NSPCC thinks’) on all these issues, as well as for coordinating the NSPCC’s programme of activities in relation to them – the projects we get involved in , the services we provide, the research we commission, the organisations we partner with, the way we work with ChildLine (our sister brand), the information we provide for parents and professionals working with children. The ultimate aim is to keep children safe when they are using the internet.
The sorts of things I have to do include: writing detailed policy briefings; advising our CEO and Trustees on our position on different issues; meeting with other charities to try to come up with innovative solutions; influencing technology companies; briefing MPs and civil servants; giving presentations at conferences, meeting with children, parents and professionals to get their views, commissioning research, giving media interviews and lots more! I learn something new every day, which I love, have a lot of autonomy to make decisions, and work with a really dedicated and supportive team of people. And of course, the chance to make a difference to children’s lives is a big driver in my job satisfaction.
Change doesn’t happen quickly though, and sometimes it is frustrating that the things you know will help to make a difference take so long to get off the ground. A challenge in my job is staying focused on the activities that will have the biggest impact on children’s safety. When you work for a big charity like the NSPCC, lots of people want to get your opinion about e.g. the latest app they have developed, and it can be easy to get distracted from your main goals or projects by all the interesting new things happening in the fast moving technology sector.
My tips for working in the public policy sector are to be flexible and take a few calculated risks at the early stages of your career. Try to get experience of the different elements which you’ll need later on as you move into more strategic positions – policy, research, public affairs, and if possible some service user experience. Don’t intern for too long and don’t hold out for the ideal first job – it’s easier to get a job when you are in an organisation as lots of jobs are only advertised internally, so don’t think you’re too qualified to take a PA job at first! Consider a Masters degree as these are increasingly necessary, and try to identify an area of policy that you are passionate about and can develop a golden thread about throughout your career. In my case it is children’s issues, but it might be animals, environmental, medical related, housing etc.
If you’re interested in a career in the Charity sector, visit Careers Tagged and find over 400 resources to get you started.