Five tips for moving from the corporate to charity sectors

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Moving from the commercial sector into a charity might not be as easy as you think, but here are some tips to help you make the move.

charity to corporate

As specialist recruiters for the charity sector, we often hear from people with significant experience in the corporate world who are keen to transfer. But it can be a more difficult move to make than many people imagine.

While charities can often benefit from bringing in skills from outside the sector, the market is highly competitive so don't assume that it's going to be an easy change in career direction. Charities are often big businesses, with the need to be open, transparent and highly ethical, and where every decision can impact directly on the charity's beneficiaries.

However, while it might not be an easy move, it's one we'd love to help you make. We're as keen as anyone to bring new talent and fresh thinking into the sector, and many charities are actively looking for candidates with a commercial background at the moment.

With that in mind, here are five tips that will help you to make the transition:

1. Think through your motivation for moving

Interviewers will be looking for more than just a nice person who wants to do their bit for a good cause and something beneficial for others with their career. These are admirable qualities, but they will apply to almost every candidate they meet, so what sets you apart?

What's really driving your move and will make you an asset to the sector? Think about your reasons and make sure you can articulate them clearly, you'll be asked this question a lot.

2. Research charity roles and look at where your skill set fits

You're likely to be competing against candidates with a charity background, so it's vital to highlight how transferable your own skills are, and apply for roles where these will be of most value. The Institute of Fundraising and NCVO are good starting points to give you an understanding of roles in the sector.

Certain charity functions (like finance or IT/data) may be similar to their commercial equivalents, but in other areas you may need to think more laterally. For example there are strong parallels between fundraising and sales e.g. generating revenue, building relationships with clients and winning new customers/supporters.

3. Be realistic about pay and your choice of charity

Moving from a commercial role is likely to involve a pay cut - there are few people who have made their millions working in this sector! Check out our Salary Survey to get an idea of current salaries in the sector.

Where a job is advertised with a salary range, don't assume that being a well-qualified professional candidate automatically guarantees you the higher end. Be prepared to start low, but once you've gained a year or two of solid charity sector experience this can rise quite rapidly.

Similarly, while you may ultimately be drawn to a particular cause or organisation, be prepared to consider others as a way of getting into the sector and gaining experience.

4. Recognise that you have a lot to learn

It's a mistake to assume (as some do) that charity colleagues will be less skilled or knowledgeable, so your superior professional abilities will easily see you through. They are different worlds, so however brilliant you are in your corporate role, it's going to be a steep learning curve!

Be aware that you'll need to pick charities who have the time and resources to train you up and fill that knowledge gap. As an agency we will be able to inform you about this on a case by case basis.

5. Get involved!

Charities will want to know that you've got a commitment to the sector, so highlight anything relevant you've been involved in: CSR projects, volunteering, fun runs, a sponsored parachute jump - whatever it may be, make sure it's on your CV!

Many companies operate partnerships with chosen charities which can be a great way to get started - don't just participate but get as involved as you can in organising events and promoting the partnership. Corporate partnerships are a major growth area for the charity sector so the experience you gain on one side of that fence can be invaluable in reaching the other.

We hope this is helpful and whatever your plans, if you've considered these points and are keen to move into the sector, do get in touch! We'd be delighted to talk you through any suitable opportunities currently available and advise on your best routes into this rewarding sector.

For further information and advice on getting into the charity sector, call us on 020 7820 7300 or get in touch via info@harrishill.co.uk

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