I have been fortunate enough to work for quite a few charities in a variety of roles, from coordinating volunteer projects in a London office, to being part of a team implementing them on the ground in rural Tanzania. Scepticism around charities has never been more prevalent in the United Kingdom, at a time where the vital work they do has never been more important, I urge individuals to continue with their support as they can.
The main thing that I learnt from working for charities is just how difficult the world really is for some people, but to never play down the positive impact you, and those you work for can have on communities. Behind the scenes, it is hard work, made even harder by the fact that there are real lives at stake if you do not get your job done properly. There is always more that could have been done, more hours that could have been put in and more people who could have been helped: as a perfectionist at work, this can be challenging. Learning to balance work life and enjoying home life is difficult when you are exposed to such harsh realities.
And, what you are working for is not about you. For those who see working for a charity as a way to fulfil their personal desire to “make a difference,” it is important to realise you are often a small cog in a very large machine. Some days my colleagues and I would leave work, feeling although we had been so busy all day, we did not know quite what we were aiming for. Working in an industry which is ever changing means that targets and agenda are constantly altering, and as with many large organisations, sometimes communication fails to deal with this very well.
I loved learning about the different elements that make up the third sector. Working in it was a great opportunity to improve my knowledge on campaigning, communications, project management, social media, among others. As well as this, the people who work in the sector are personal; they are nurturing, thoughtful, well meaning. I have worked in few jobs where the people have been as concerned and caring about those they work with.
Working with those in different continents presents multiple challenges: language, cultural differences as well as more practical ones such as time differences and communication difficulties. One thing that I found very difficult was working so closely with people, and yet never having the opportunity to meet them. When I had the opportunity to work abroad, I relished being able to communicate directly with colleagues; being so close to the projects and seeing their impacts first hand was very motivational.
For those who are considering a career in the third sector, do not take the decision litely. It is incredibly tough and can sometimes leave you questioning if you chose the right path. But it is also true that there are fewer jobs out there that are so fulfilling.