Made a mistake at work recently that was your fault? Are you still agonising over it?
For my guest article this month, I’m exploring why a work blunder might feel like your world has ended, never mind your career, but could turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Ah, the work blooper. Whether you’re an intern or the CEO, a self-orientated perfectionist or if you swear you triple-checked your email recipient, one day you WILL make a mistake. It’s an inevitable and unavoidable part of life.
For article research, I asked friends, colleagues and LinkedIn’ers if they’d be willing to reveal their most unforgettable career-clangers. The responses wove a fascinating (and hilarious) tapestry of goofs. A helpful reminder that we’re all human - it’s the quirks of our mental make up that truly makes us interesting - and that even the most painful slip-ups can be helpful…
Why do we make mistakes anyway?
From clean forgetting the attachment on an all-company email to accidentally forwarding a highly inappropriate spam video to your Chair of Trustees - rather than flagging it with your PR team as you’d intended - the workplace gaffe is cringingly familiar.
It’s safe to say most people have experienced the palpable gut-wrench of making an absolute clanger. So why do we make mistakes? Are we simply being careless or in a rush? Ignoring our intuitions and pushing ahead with an approach we know deep down will fail? Or is there more at play than personality and intelligence?
American journalist and author Joseph T. Hallinan thinks so. In his book ‘Why We Make Mistakes’, he believes humans are pre-programmed to mess up because of our inbuilt ‘design flaws’. That it’s the way we think, see and remember - and forget - that leads us to make mistakes. By delving into psychology, neuroscience, and economics, he deduces that the same qualities that make us efficient can also make us prone to error.
These design flaws, like when our eyes play tricks on us, are all-too-relatable. ‘I once sent an email about how incompetent and what a pain in the a***e a client was - only to send it directly to him’ said one of my friends.
Not spotting a missing letter can also wreak havoc, as a teacher friend discovered. ‘My teaching assistant was responsible for the gardening club and needed to write an emergency flyer home to parents due to bad weather. She intended to ask them to wear wet-weather gear - wellies in particular. But, the note read something along the lines of... ‘Dear gardeners, please don’t forget to bring your willies to school tomorrow!’. It was my job to check - I missed it and the note went home. Thank goodness our parents are fairly good humoured!’.
Why is it good to mess up?
Most people are compassionate enough to realise mistakes happen and see the funny side when wellies go rogue.
None of us are entirely flawless but we’re acclimatised to curated perfection in our virtual worlds. We share our successes and luminous achievements to our followers, but we rarely exhibit our failures when things haven’t gone so well.
Then again, messing up can feel like the end of the world. The immediate reaction is usually negative; panic, nausea, wild irrationality. As you simultaneously update your LinkedIn profile in readiness for a new-job search and WhatsApp your friends requesting an urgent wine-up to wallow in catharsis, you can feel like the worst (*add job title here) in the country.
Yet giving yourself permission to make mistakes could actually make you stronger. No matter how crushing they feel at the time, getting it wrong can be right in the long term. As Viv Groskop explains in her article for The Pool, ‘the more we stumble the less likely we are to head towards a major fall’. Making a mistake allows you to pause and reflect on the decisions made and actions taken which caused the error. Essentially, you get clarity on what’s gone wrong and can take steps to put it right.
Post-mistake anxiety - the I never want to experience this embarrassment or worry ever again feeling - can be the driving force to do better next time. You may also push yourself in a way you wouldn’t if you’re used to playing it safe and striving for perfection.
Author Elizabeth Day’s inspiring podcast ‘How To Fail With Elizabeth Day’ celebrates the things that haven’t quite gone right. Every week, she asks her interviewee what they learned from their failures and how to do it better next time, - and succeed. In her article for The Guardian, she shares, ‘I realised that the biggest, most transformative moments of my life came through crisis or failure’. Crucially, she survived.
So, what can I learn from a mistake?
The cringy, 'it feels like my career is over' kind of mishaps are often unforgettable. Yet, for most people their world didn’t actually end, it got better.
► Embed a valuable skill. When one senior designer first started out in publishing, he printed '10,000s of John Grisham audiobooks with the title misspelt on the spine. It was…quite a biggy’. Gulp. Yet, the one thing they’ve carried with them, apart from an innate fear of a legal thriller, is how crucial it is to double check anything that goes public. My friend who sent a disparaging email about a client TO the client? ‘I never wrote a single word about anyone on my work email ever again!’.
► Steer you down a career path you REALLY want to take. One of my great friends ‘invited 60 Financial Services big-wigs to a CPD event up in Liverpool, only to receive a phone call from one of the attendees telling me that the venue hadn’t a clue about the event and there was no booking. Yep - I hadn’t booked it. To be fair to me that season I ran over 140 events nationally, but that was a spectacular fail! It was then I realised, Events was not for me…’. They have since built a successful and exciting career in HRIS with notable brands on their CV - and haven’t given CPD events a second thought.
► Alter your behaviour. ‘I wondered and commented on why a young lad was looking at a notice up really really close’ mused one of my contacts. ‘Unfortunately he had a very bad eye problem. I was mortified that I had commented and have learned that all disabilities may not be that obvious. I’m very considerate and helpful to all my customers'. Although naturally respectful, it reminded her that consideration towards others goes a long way.
Argh, I’ve made a huge mistake. Now what?!
Here are some suggested ways to navigate yourself out a potential crisis in the event of a blooper:
1. Clear your head. Stop, take a deep breath and consider what’s actually happened (i.e. did you email the person intended or the whole company?). In your eagerness for damage control, avoid sending an email immediately. It could make things ten times worse and appear you’ve lost control.
2. Face up to it. Don’t run away, hide in the loos or blame the whole thing on Stephen from Finance. Be upfront with your manager and apologise, but don’t over do it. Present a clearly thought-out solution for their approval and display a calm and professional exterior (even if you’re sobbing inside).
3. Try not to catastrophise. It’s natural to assume the worst - but don’t let panic or imposter syndrome overwhelm you. It’s likely your colleagues won’t notice your mistake, as everyone’s too busy making their own (I mean, getting on with their work).
4. A slip-up shared...Talk to a friend or loved one. What feels like the end of the world this morning could make for a terrific anecdote by this evening once you’ve nailed (1), (2) and (3). Swapping ‘you’ll never guess what I did today’ tales can offer reassurance, a reality check and a giggle. Then, stop obsessing and let it go.
5. Show em’ what you’re made of. Don’t let a blip derail you. Work extra hard over the coming weeks to restore your confidence. Genuine colleagues and good line managers will want to see you succeed.
6. Check yourself. If you’re making small but frequent mistakes at work, there might be something else at play. Are you overloaded with a heavy work-life balance or anxious about something in your personal life? Or are you bored, taking your eye off the ball? Consider talking to your manager or HR, or access other support mechanisms like an employee assistance programme or a work/life coach.
No matter how agonising at the time, work mistakes can provide invaluable lessons to file in our ever-growing life manual. Although it’s hard to visualise in the moment, the personal growth you’ll experience will make it all worthwhile.
Trust me. It’ll all be OK.
Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist & Freelance Writer
There were too many brilliant mistakes to include in this article so...
..for the purposes of solidarity in our slip-ups, here’s some more mistakes to share. A huge thanks to everyone who bravely participated!
Interviewing the wrong person for a role was a good one! Two sets of interviews were happening at the same time. I knew my candidate was a Sikh gentleman and never for a moment imagined the other candidate would be too, so didn’t check his name, just asked if he was here for a interview. It was only when we got to the technical questions that he actually asked what the role he was being interviewed for was!
Before I moved into professional services I worked for a fairly big haulage company in their Finance dept. I was working closely with two very experienced women who were great to work with and helpful. We got on well as a team apart from our direct line manager who was David Brent before he was conceived as a concept. Unfortunately one of said women had a massive hang up about her age (she was in her mid thirties) and one day I tried to get her attention to discuss a project and forgot where I was and called her 'mother'. She thought I was being cheeky (due to sensitivity around age) but it was a genuine oversight. Everyone else in the office was rolling up in tears. Lesson learned, always remember somebody's name and their relationship to you. For context I was 18 at the time.
It can’t be as bad as a) inviting all your personal contacts to a staff breast awareness session or b) an unfortunate ‘Beast Caner’ typo (breast cancer) in a print run of 5,000.
Back in the day and being an over-helpful people pleaser I offered to help our Company Secretary "guillotine" the sides off of his eldest daughter's GCSE music manuscripts to tidy them up for submission to the examiners. (His PA was on a day off). I nervously lined them up on what I thought would be a nice, neat line - only to chop off about an inch of the actual music as well! Not sure what I learned other than what a complete twit I was! And of course it’s something I've never forgotten - and apparently neither had he when I met him at a reunion almost 20 years later!
I did a whole day of interviews. We had one candidate that got louder and higher pitched with each question and answer, to the point where on the panel, we couldn't look at each other and were shaking with holding the laughter in. Somehow we made it through that interview, but didn't do the sensible thing and take a break, get it out and breathe… no, we just ploughed on. The poor next candidate came in and started her interview, but then two of us made eye contact and one of us lost it. One interviewer had to leave the room after snorting out a laugh. All of us fell apart laughing - absolutely full-on crying, belly laughs. It was awful. The poor candidate had no idea what was going on. In the end we had to stop, explain and start again. It was so unprofessional. However, she got the job and was a fabulous team member for many years. We are still in touch now…
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With Covid-19 raging on, many charities have seen the demand for their services increase while funding, due to cancelled events and financial uncertainty, has decreased. MDS UK, a charity supporting patients of Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) - a rare blood cancer - is participating in the 20:20 campaign to replace some lost income, but urgently needs more participants! What is MDS? MDS is a group of malignant blood disorders in which the bone marrow fails to produce healthy blood cells. All types of blood cells can be affected, causing a range of symptoms: Red cells (erythrocytes) – which carry oxygen to organs and tissues in the body. Anaemia occurs due to a lack of red cells (also referred to as low haemoglobin), which may lead to fatigue and shortness of breath even on light exertion. White cells – which collectively fight against infection. Recurrent and persistent infections are a common symptom of MDS due to low white cell counts. Platelets (thrombocytes) – which prevent us from bruising and bleeding. A low platelet count can cause bruising, rashes and nose or gum bleeds. In some patients, MDS can progress to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). In AML, abnormal cells grow very rapidly, building up in the bone marrow and blood. While some patients live with their MDS diagnosis others will unfortunately pass away. A stem cell transplant is the only cure, but this carries inherent risks and can only be performed on younger, fitter patients. What does MDS UK provide? MDS UK aims to raise awareness of MDS, offers support and information to patients and families, and campaigns to increase the quality of life and make treatments available to those affected by the disease. The charity provides patients with access to a list of UK consultants specialising in MDS at specialist centres, a helpline for support and advice and national patient information meetings with specialist speakers. Patients can meet each other through MDS UK’s regional support group meetings (where they meet informally and hear from local consultants and nurses) and an online forum to share their experiences with others. MDS UK also recently funded its first research project aiming to improve treatment options for patients. Further research like this is essential due to the lack of MDS awareness among the public and medical profession and the lack of treatment options. Case Study MDS UK’s Chairman and MDS patient, Ted Peel, was diagnosed in 2015 following extreme fatigue, coughing up and passing of blood and several uncomfortable bone marrow biopsies. “Following an unsuccessful period of medication to remedy low a white blood cell count, I was hospitalised three times with sepsis where my temperature plummeted to 32C”, says Ted. “I was soon told that I needed a transplant.” Ted’s transplant treatment scheduled for this spring was sadly postponed as it was deemed too unsafe to be admitted to the hospital which was making provisions for Covid-19 patients. He was delighted and relieved when told at a more recent consultation that he would be admitted promptly for the treatment as Covid-19 cases in London have decreased. “It’s great to be given another chance at life”, says Ted. “I want to thank MDS UK for their continued support. They’ve been amazing, giving me advice and a helping hand when I’ve needed it most. However, our small charity needs more support.” 20:20 Campaign Due to Covid-19, MDS UK is facing financial hardship as the events it relies heavily on for income have been postponed or cancelled and demand for services has increased. Therefore, they were delighted when contacted about the 20:20 campaign which was set up to replace some of the funds lost by rare cancer charities. Participants will simply complete one challenge a day for 20 consecutive days between September 20th and November 20th and encourage friends and family to support them via the campaign JustGiving page. The challenges DO NOT have to be fitness / exercise based and can be as imaginative as the participants please, e.g. “bake 20 cupcakes” or “20 minutes of knitting.” There is no minimum financial target and the campaign may receive celebrity endorsement and media coverage! All funds raised by MDS UK’s participants will go directly to the charity. Appeal MDS UK urgently needs more participants to help it continue providing life-changing support for MDS patients like Ted and their loved ones, ensuring that, as the campaign strapline reads: “Cancer doesn’t stop for Covid!” If you would like to participate or for more information, contact Jan Edwards (MDS UK’s Fundraising Officer)and visit the event page. For more information about MDS and MDS UK visit their website. You can read Ted’s full story here. Thank you! For a copy of the event poster click here. Blog post written by Jan Edwards (MDS UK's Fundraising Officer). More from the Harris Hill blog 12 tips for video interview success Interviewing via video is the new normal for now, and if it's also new to you, here are some practical tips on the process from our executive recruitment experts, courtesy of director Jenny Hills. Read more ► How to work well from home Millions of us are doing it, but is working from home really working for you? Nicola Greenbrook has the lowdown on the lockdown and advice to help you turn the new arrangements to your advantage. Read more ►
Welcome back to Charity Careers, in which freelance writer Nicola Greenbrook invites key influencers in the charity sector to share their career story and how they navigate the professional world. We discover what they've learned along the way, what motivates them to get up in the morning and what their dream breakfast might look like when they do... In these extraordinary times, Nicola was delighted to chat (virtually, of course) to Susana Lopez, Head of Leadership Giving for Cancer Research UK about her impressive career to date and balancing parenthood with the personal reasons that drive her work for CRUK. She also learned how the charity is responding to COVID-19 and why breakfast in Spain, the complete works of Austen and Tiger King are a few of Susana's favourite things… Hi Susana - we know the name of course, but how would you sum up CRUK's mission and cause? In the 1970s, just 1 in 4 people in the UK survived cancer. Today, thanks to research, that figure has doubled. At Cancer Research UK (CRUK), our ambition is to continue to accelerate this progress so that 3 in 4 people survive cancer by 2034. As the largest independent funder of cancer research in the world, we define global research priorities. Untethered to government funding, we can react rapidly and have the agility to support courageous, risk-taking science. Since our beginnings in 1902, our work has helped uncover the causes of cancer, leading to some of the earliest studies into risk factors, including the link between smoking and cancer. We also laid the foundations for the UK’s national cancer screening programmes and today’s radiotherapy and surgery techniques, and we have contributed to developing eight of the world’s top 10 cancer drugs. Today, we support more than 4,000 nurses, researchers and doctors across a network of exceptional cancer research centres and partner with more than 80 organisations all over the world. We cover every aspect of cancer research and every step of the cancer journey, from our patient information programmes to prevention, diagnosis and treatment. What are you responsible for in your role? My role is really varied! I head up Leadership Giving which sits within the wider Philanthropy and Campaigns team. We work with amazing supporters who want to make a difference by investing in truly cutting-edge research and support. This includes the Catalyst Club, dedicated philanthropists working with us over the long term to have an impact on key areas of CRUK's work; early diagnosis, developing the next generation of science leaders, and the new City of London centre. What drew you to CRUK and when did you join? I’ve had two stints here; from 2006 to 2015 I was a trust fundraising manager and then a senior manager in CRUK's first capital campaign team, Create the Change, raising £100m for the development of the Francis Crick Institute in Kings Cross. I came back to the organisation in November 2019 as Head of Leadership Giving. The simple answer as to why is that cancer has had a profound impact on my life and my family; we lost my mum to ovarian cancer eight years ago; the treatments that kept her well for nearly four years post diagnosis were in part developed by CRUK. All four of my grandparents died of cancer, and too many other family members. I'm an Arts graduate, so was never going to go into science and find new and better treatments myself, but I can put my shoulder to the wheel in the fundraising efforts and secure the investment needed for cancer research. We're hearing much more about medical research in these unprecedented times of course, albeit for a different reason. How has the current pandemic impacted CRUK and your role in particular? Michelle Mitchell, our CEO, has been very open on the impact of COVID-19 on CRUK; unprecedented times indeed. We’ve had to close our shops, and postpone huge events like Race for Life and the gala events which really drive our fundraising programme, and are predicting a 25% drop in income this year, potentially more. The organisation has renegotiated leases on shops, made full use of the government's Job Retention Scheme by furloughing a large number of staff, and made every saving possible in order to protect the investment we make in the front-line science. Even so, we've had to make some tough decisions about the science we can fund, and have had to plan for cuts to that spend. Within my role, we work closely with senior volunteers, ambassadors who are willing to open up their networks and introduce potential supporters to our work, often through a range of events. Obviously we can’t plan those events currently, so we have had to almost throw out the old plans and start afresh. This could be terrifying, but has actually felt very liberating - we have permission to think outside of the box, and to really get insight from our supporters as to what they feel will work, and trial some new ways of working. How did you start your career and what have been the key roles? My first role was as a trust fundraising executive at YMCA England. I'd returned to my home town (after a post-uni year in Spain) to find everyone had scattered, mostly to London! So when a friend contacted me to say there was an entry level role at YMCA England where she was working, I applied. Although I knew nothing about fundraising (amazing to think now that there once was a time when these roles were available to someone with no fundraising experience), I quickly realised that it was a perfect role; lots of talking to colleagues in service delivery about what they were planning and what the impact would be, creative and impactful writing, talking to potential supporters and asking for advice and selling in the work and the difference it would make to homeless and disadvantaged young people. I've since worked in a range of organisations at a range of levels and I don’t know if there are roles I would pick out as being particularly key. Maybe my senior manager role at CRUK the first time around (!) as it really exposed me to working with amazing senior leadership and senior volunteers and to work with really significant supporters to secure multi million pound gifts towards a capital appeal, and to see how a campaign really works. What I would say is that there have been people who have been key to my career; from my first manager at YMCA England, Christine Douglas, who taught me how to structure a trust proposal and how to write for impact, through to Jennifer Cormack at CRUK who showed me how to lead a team collaboratively. Debbie Gilbert at St Giles Trust showed me how to show up as a leader (and never to take no for an answer!), Catherine Miles at Anthony Nolan showed me how to manage upwards and protect your team, and Russell Delew at CRUK gave me the opportunity to work on what was at the time CRUK's biggest capital campaign and secure some of the biggest gifts of my career… Was a charity career always your goal? It really wasn’t; I didn’t know what fundraising was when I applied for my first job in the sector. From childhood I wanted to be a journalist, but fell out of love with the idea on graduation (although three of my family are journalists on TV and in print now, so I feel I'm living the dream vicariously through them!) and I was at a loss what to do with the skills an English Literature degree and a naturally nosey nature had fitted me for. Luckily it turns out being inquisitive, talkative, with a good memory and a way with words is a perfect basis for a career in trust and major gift fundraising. How do you keep your skills fresh and ensure continuous learning along the way? I'm a huge fan of continuous learning - we can all learn something new. I've been working as a fundraiser for 25 years (ARGH) and still enthusiastically sign up for the Institute of Fundraising Convention each year alongside interesting looking briefing events, and especially the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration’s (SOFII) annual I Wish I'd Thought of That event. I also think it's imperative to learn from your peers and keep your ear to the ground with what's happening across the sector to ensure you don’t end up in your own little organisational bubble/echo chamber. To that end, I set up a networking group and invited people I met across the sector to come along; we meet four or five times a year and share news, ask questions, ask for support and advice and make connections. It's fascinating to see how other organisations deal with the challenges we all face - we're meeting in May, and I can't wait to hear how everyone is dealing with COVID-19! What would you advise graduates seeking to join the sector, or more experienced people considering a leap into leadership? When I'm interviewing, I always look for behaviours over a skill set, so my only advice to graduates would be show flexibility, how you've taken on new responsibilities or roles, and your willingness to learn. Skills can be taught. For people moving into leadership - choose the organisation carefully! I’m being half-facetious, but the serious point is to look at how the organisation supports its managers and leaders, what's expected of them, and what training there is internally - for example on managing a team, conducting 121s and annual reviews. These skills are key to managing and too many organisations think they’re innate. They aren't, as anyone who has suffered with a badly trained manager will tell you. Aside from that, be open, honest and transparent - turn up as yourself, and as authentic as you can be. When times get hard, it's tough to maintain a facade! And finally, approach someone you admire and ask them if they'd be willing to act as a mentor. I've listed some of the people who have been key to my career, but I've learned so much from so many people across the sector which has been invaluable. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Christina Grant (who contributed to your article on how to be assertive at work) had a profound impact on me when she worked at CRUK as a trainer. I use some element of her Raising The Bar training and coaching every single day in my work life; the key one is 'Human beings like threes'. Every single meeting opener, presentation, 121, PDR, whatever, I frame around three key points, because it works! What’s the most challenging part of the job? I’ve had lots of challenging jobs, and roles that I’ve left because I couldn’t see how I could make a useful contribution. I can honestly say that I don’t feel that way in my current role; the only challenge, as cheesy as it sounds, is sometimes reining a really ambitious team in! And the best bit? Where to start? The pride in knowing the work we do has a direct impact on cancer, and today, on COVID-19 as CRUK pivots to working on vaccines and treatments for the pandemic, and releases clinicians and nurses back into the NHS to work on the front lines of coronavirus. Working and being in awe of world leading medical researchers who are answering the toughest questions of cancer. Working with world leading fundraisers from whom I can learn so much. And knowing that my mum would be so happy that I've come back to CRUK, an organisation that she supported. What have been your career's biggest ups and downs to date? Up: working with a family who were keen to support an area of work, and who, after a couple of false starts, agreed to an initial gift of £1.1m, and then a further gift of £5m towards a campaign. I secured that gift just before going on maternity leave, so there was a nice completeness to it! Down: working up a huge proposal, full agreement from the finance team and CEO, all ready to go just before Christmas, for a January board meeting date. My ‘spidey sense’ was tingling, though, so I thought I'd make one last check with the project lead. After a couple of days they came back with 'Oh, we've decided not to do that anymore'. It was, I'm afraid to say, the final nail in the coffin for my time at that organisation! Who do you look up to in the sector or more widely? One of my oldest and dearest friends is a sister in A&E in our home town; I’m always in awe of her, but especially at the moment. My sister is a primary school teacher. and after four weeks of trying to teach a six year old, I'm in awe of her, and in fact all teachers. Across the sector, I look up to those people who walk the walk not just spout the theory - I'm loathe to name names as I know I'll leave someone out, but the people who have closed the big gifts, grown income streams, got senior leadership buy-in for major gift fundraising and in doing so created transformational growth. Let's finish with some quick lifestyle questions: are you up with the lark or a night owl? Left to my own devices, I would go to bed at 8.30pm and sleep til 9.00am. I love sleep. Juggling a small child and a full-on job, the lie-ins are less frequent although I am blessed with an early bird husband, so I definitely get more than my fair share! What gets you out of bed in the morning, rain or shine? Usually the six year old asking questions about dinosaurs, trains or planes ... more seriously: deadlines and wanting to get on and make a difference. Urgh, that sounds awful. But true! And what's your dream (and actual) breakfast once you're up? Dream breakfast - lockdown over and travelling again - would be some mixture of fresh eggs, bread and fruit overlooking the sea somewhere hot and beautiful. If it could be the motherland of Spain, so much the better. Actual breakfast more likely to be overnight oats with yoghurt whilst logging on … Does a typical day exist? Not really, but it would usually involve checking in with the team, checking in with senior managers, or looking over proposals and reports for donors to feed in my thoughts: after 25 years of doing the job, it's really key to me to share what I was taught and what I've learned the hard way! Also planning, taking part in some thinking about upcoming projects or launches, and best of all, meetings and calls with supporters and senior volunteers to talk about the work of CRUK, and to solicit their support in a variety of ways. What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment? I'm an English Literature graduate who, in another life, would have been at my most content lost in an English department somewhere writing an interminable thesis on Austen. I have weird reading tastes - early 19th century fiction and contemporary US fiction. My favourite authors are Jane Austen, Curtis Sittenfeld, Tom Woolfe and Jonathan Frantzen. I could happily just read them for the rest of my life. Oh, and Mhairi McFarlane for cracking modern UK writing. I have absolutely gutter tastes in TV though; Tiger King was a recent highlight and aside from that, rubbish reality TV, especially the Real Housewives franchise, or what my husband calls 'your programmes about ladies shouting at each other’. I’m relatively new to podcasts, and just didn't get them at all until I came across Gossipmongers and I’m now a convert. Best. Podcast. Ever. And finally, how do you wind down in your spare time? If I have any, I like to switch my brain off with things that are detailed but mindless like knitting. I make many, many scarves, as that's about the limit of my skills. I dream of being able to make something more complicated. A huge thank you to Susana, we very much appreciate you taking the time to share your story, career insights and invaluable advice with our readers - we wish you and CRUK all the very best in the challenging weeks ahead, and of course for the future! Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist and Freelance Writer Contact Nicola, check out her website or follow her on Twitter, or for more on Cancer Research UK and why they need you more than ever, please visit their website. More Charity Careers #1: Sara Rees, Head of Fundraising, Rays of Sunshine ► #2: Hannah Sanders, Consumer Brand Partnerships, Save the Children ► #3: Andy Harris, Director of Income Generation, Shelter ► #4: James Harris, Associate Director of Communications, Marketing and Membership, Rethink Mental Illness ► #5: Chris Oak, Associate Director HR & Facilities, SPANA ► More from the Harris Hill blog 12 tips for video interview success Interviewing via video is the new normal for now, and if it's also new to you, here are some practical tips on the process from our executive recruitment experts, courtesy of director Jenny Hills. Read more ► How to work well from home Millions of us are doing it, but is working from home really working for you? Nicola Greenbrook has the lowdown on the lockdown and advice to help you turn the new arrangements to your advantage. Read more ►
Interviewing via video is the new normal for now, and if it's also new to you, here are some practical tips on the process from our executive recruitment experts, courtesy of director Jenny Hills. Getting the basics right: make sure what's behind you isn't distracting How to get the best from video interviews By now you'll probably know the basics from the video meetings that have come to dominate all of our working and social lives: make sure your camera and microphone are working ahead of the call, check your pyjama bottoms aren’t in view below your smart top, and that what’s behind you isn’t distracting. But over the past few weeks, we’ve picked up a few additional practical pointers that can help you ace that all-important video interview: Try a test run If you’re not familiar with the videocall platform you’ll be using, ask your friendly consultant for a quick technical test-run. We want you to nail this meeting, and if a test-run will help that, we’re only too happy to do it. If you’ve applied directly, ask a friend to do a test-run with you well ahead of the interview. Lights, camera, wardrobe Wear what you would normally wear (at least on top) to an interview. However, keep in mind the quality of your camera and the lighting. You don’t need a camera any fancier than the one that came with the laptop/smartphone, but if you know the image quality isn’t great, try and sit in a well-lit room, and consider the colours you are wearing. A white shirt in front of a white wall in bright sunlight might mean you blend into the wallpaper too much. On the other hand, wearing dark colours in room with less-than-great lighting risks you appearing as a grainy blur to the panel. In all cases, don’t silhouette yourself in front of the light source! Steady your nerves (and devices) If you're using a smartphone or tablet, find a way to prop it up and keep it steady for the interview, rather than holding it in your hand: a shaky picture can detract from what you're saying and create the impression of nervousness, even if you're confident, calm and collected. Stay informed Keep the relevant details (job description, person specification etc) and your application to hand, either printed out or in another window of your screen. If you’re switching between screens to look at something (most videocall platforms allow you to do this without leaving the call), remember the panel can still see and hear you. Be prompt Keep to your start time! Normally, arriving 10 minutes ahead of an interview is good practice, but if you log into the Zoom meeting early, you may interrupt the panel’s pre-interview discussion, or they may simply not be there are they’re taking advantage of a quick break to run to the bathroom. We’ve been advising our candidates to log in a minute before the actual interview. This gives you time to make sure the audio and video is working before it cuts into precious interview time, but also allows the panel to take their breaks, talk amongst themselves and be ready. Remember you're on camera! When on videocalls, some people understandably forget about eye contact and look around the room whilst talking (as many of us do when we’re thinking). Don’t stare down the lens (creepy), but try to keep your eyes on the screen. It doesn’t really matter where on the screen, but the person who asked the question is a good bet, especially if you find looking at yourself distracting. Express yourself There’s no need to be a mime artist, but if you use body language (nodding, smiling, leaning in, etc) you might want to exaggerate it a little bit more than you would in person so it shows up on camera. This helps engagement between you all as people. Someone sitting motionless and expressionless is hard to relate to, and the panel want to get a sense of you as a person and as a potential colleague. The show must go on For relatively minor audio and video disruption (screen freezes, distorted audio), we advise ignoring it unless it has impaired your understanding of what the panel are saying/asking. We’ve found that this keeps interruptions to a minimum, and on the flipside, we’ve seen conversations lose momentum when every bit of digital static is commented on. Be expressive, but not a mime artist. Also recommended in all other situations. Don't panic This way of working is strange for all of us, so don’t be phased if something goes pear-shaped. Can’t hear? Explain and wait for it to resolve (leave and re-join if necessary). Six-year-old has to show you the spaceship now? Cat decides it needs to sleep on the laptop? Smile, ask the panel for a quick pause to deal with it, and get back to it. We’re all human, and if the panel doesn’t understand that, do you want to work for them? Stay focused That said, despite the interruptions and informalities of working from home, the conversational style in videocalls is by necessity pretty formal (even for an interview). If two people speak at the same time, both are completely unintelligible so everyone has to take turns to speak. You are also missing out on almost all the non-verbal clues that we don’t realise we rely on so much. A particular risk is talking to fill the silence and missing clues you’d normally spot that the panel are disengaging from your answer, so stick to focused, relevant answers (the STAR technique is a good general guide). If you’ve said something interesting and they want more detail, they’ll ask. Make sure you leave a pause between someone asking a question and you talking to ensure they’re done, and that panel members are given opportunities to ask follow ups. Be flexible If your internet connection is bad enough to disrupt the conversation, apologise, fix it if at all possible, but if not, ask if you may switch your camera off and go audio only, or even dial in to the call instead. This should be a last resort because it’s the only way you can hear and respond to the panel. On the other hand, if one or more panel members go audio only for the same reasons, don’t get phased and keep your eyes on the screen. Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they can’t see you. BYO refreshments Finally, much as they’d like to, the panel can’t offer you the glass of water/tea/coffee, so make sure you have one to hand for when you need it. A separate celebratory beverage for when you leave the videocall having given the best interview of your life is optional. To wrap up, there are practical differences between the usual in-person interview and a video interview, but the intent behind them is the same: for you, is this a job you want? For the panel, are you the person they want for the job? Being able to adapt to these differences may not guarantee you the job, but feeling more confident and relaxed about the process will give yourself and the panel the best chance of making the right decision. Jenny Hills Chief Executive & Director Recruitment Practice, Harris Hill Search executive opportunities ► More from the Harris Hill blog How to work well from home Millions of us are doing it, but how well is working from home working for you? Guest blogger (and frequent home-worker) Nicola Greenbrook has advice to help you keep things running smoothly. Read more ► Should you be working for a large or small charity? The biggest charities may have the biggest opportunities, but you'll typically take on more responsibilities somewhere smaller - so which is better for your career? Faye Marshall and our fundraising specialists weigh up the options. Read more ► How to be assertive at work Altruistic behaviour is fundamental to the charity sector, but saying yes to every request can leave you seriously overwhelmed. Nicola Greenbrook explores how you can learn to stand your ground and be more productive as a result. Read more ►
With much of the world in lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, working from home is the new normal for many. Our guest blogger and freelance writer Nicola Greenbrook offers suggestions on how to work productively, interact socially and look after our physical and mental health. How to work well from home We are living in exceptional times. The virus that emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan has caused a global COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing, the UK is in lockdown, the shutters have come down on all non-essential shops, schools and nurseries are closed, and many charities are in crisis. Government guidance advises people to work from home where possible, travelling only when it is essential. But for those unaccustomed, or averse, to homeworking, it can take a while to adjust. Throw into the mix that our partners/flatmates/children are our new colleagues, how can we work productively and efficiently from our homes - and keep our minds and bodies healthy? ___________________ Create a designated workspace The spread of coronavirus has been rapid; one day you were at work, the next creating an ‘office’ in your flat amongst the laundry and hunting under a pile of magazines for a pen. Before you do anything else, prioritise setting up a clear and defined workplace, separate from your home life where possible. If this is the kitchen table for the time being, ensure it's clear, free of coffee cups and has easy access to power. HSE's Display Screen Equipment (DSE) workstation checklist offers clear guidance on areas such as chairs, screens and lighting. Adding a personal touch to your workspace might help with the adjustment to homeworking (best to avoid dedicating an entire working day to #workspacestyling though). Kim Watson, comms freelancer and co-founder of holistic therapies business The House of Palms finds that it increases her productivity: ‘I have a proper workspace, a desk with plants, pictures, candles and natural light etc. All things that make me feel happy and wanting to work - that helps!’ Establish a routine and set boundaries I'm an HR Specialist for an IP law firm in the City for three days a week and a freelance writer at home for one day and weekends (plus a Mum in between). This provides clear boundaries and compartmentalises my working week. However, the lines are currently blurred; each part is now worked from home. It’s an unprecedented situation for most of us; there’s no commute to act as a physical divide and we've literally brought our work into our homes. So what can we do to restore some order? Creating a simple plan for the week ahead can help stay on track; try scheduling activities against set times and get to know when you’re ‘peak you’. If, generally, you’re less dynamic in the afternoon or susceptible to energy slumps, consider doing less creative work then. If working alongside a partner or flatmate/s AND children, and without a separate room to work from, at least delineate a space that is solely yours. Over breakfast each day, consider holding a team meeting with your ‘new colleagues’; discuss and agree the hours you’ll each work (especially if caring for/homeschooling children as well) and how you like to work (loud music vs complete silence etc). Then be prepared to compromise and be flexible - we’re all in this together! ___________________ Watch the clock It’s tempting to work all hours just because we can. Stick to your regular office hours where possible and commit to meetings in your diary rather than pushing them back. Establish a routine; stop for lunch and utilise morning and afternoon breaks to do a quick house chore or grab a drink - and step away from the screen. Work steadily, stay focused and STOP at a set time - then switch off. It's unlikely you'd run back to the office at 11pm after an evening out, so there’s no need to head back to your laptop at home. Stop looking for distractions There’s something about being in your own home that feels more comfortable, don’t you think? Sure, you could squeeze in some pre-work Netflix over a bowl of cereal, but can you stop at one episode? What about chores? Are you finding it hard to ignore the messy kitchen cupboard /peeling paint/huge pile of stuff to sort out? Yes? You could be procrastinating; save the decluttering for the weekend. Mirror your homeworking day with your office one. If a relative or friend wants a chat in the middle of the day (rather than it being a genuine concern or emergency), politely reschedule for lunchtime or post-work. It's important to digest public health information, but avoid getting bogged down in multiple sources, too many WhatsApps or unreliable social media posts. Don't let a quick peek at your phone become a Twitter marathon. ___________________ Be healthy in mind and body Working from home can be challenging and isolating, and you might be feeling a certain level of anxiety and distress. Explore some coping mechanisms that could alleviate feelings of uncertainty. For example, limiting social media (and visiting positive accounts only like Upworthy), using meditation and relaxation apps, reading a book or sitting in the garden to restore a sense of calm and wellbeing. Mental health charity Mind offers some brilliant advice on coronavirus and your wellbeing. Try exercising in your former commuting time (for your mandated, one form of exercise a day) to start or end the day in the right way. Runner's World has some good tips for staying active during social distancing and the Guardian suggests the ten best online (and free) home workouts. Stay hydrated and eat well, avoiding the temptation to fall into a pattern of idle snacking and ransacking the crisps cupboard at 10.00am. NHS factsheet ‘Water, drinks and your health’ provides some helpful reminders on this. Finally, ensure you follow sanitation and good hygiene practice to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at home too. Wash your hands and clean your keyboard, phone and other equipment regularly. Here's a reminder of the advice on this, via the CIPD (or click for pdf): Stay in conversation Maintaining some form of human connection while homeworking is essential, and emotional support is a critical part of our physical and mental wellbeing. If your workload allows, contribute to team chats or group emails when you can so you don't drop off the radar. Consider a virtual coffee break with your team and ask what they’re working on, come up with ways to support each other and share what’s on your list (or your mind, if you feel comfortable). Jot Form offers some great ideas for online business tools and ways to communicate, such as using a video conferencing tool like Zoom for meetings with multiple attendees, hosting courses, and webinars. And finally… • Get dressed - It’s tempting to jump straight into it and conference call in a work top with pyjama bottoms, but before you know it, it's 3pm. Get showered, first. • Support local businesses - Consider signing up for an online yoga class with a local teacher, order takeout as a lunchtime treat from a café and buy your basic necessities from a local shop. • Learn how to homework - LinkedIn Learning’s remote working course can be done in small chunks and includes insight from entrepreneur Arianna Huffington. • Reach out - If you're struggling, don’t hesitate to speak to your HR team for support or access any employee assistance programmes available. ___________________ These are unsettling and worrying times, and a huge period of change for the UK’s workforce. You may be feeling out of control right now, but try to focus on the things you can control (washing your hands, taking exercise and breaks, eating well and drinking fluids) rather than what you can’t. Take it day by day; get to know what works for you to get the best out of homeworking and stay in good physical and mental health. Stay safe and well - and indoors. Nicola Contact Nicola, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter. The coronavirus pandemic is a fast-moving and developing situation and official advice should always be taken. You'll find the most up-to-date information via the UK Government, NHS or World Health Organisation sites. More from Nicola Greenbrook How to set goals (and stick to them in style) ► Podcast your way to workplace wellbeing ► How to be assertive at work ► More from the Harris Hill blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? ► Smarter than the average bear: the Charity Series Quiz Night champions! ► Caudwell Children: Building a better world for disabled children ►
Previously in 2020: fires, floods, locusts and a global plague, but if you're tired of Apocalypse Bingo and keen to hear about our inter-charity quiz (or just desperate for literally anything new to read by now), you’re in luck! A quiz to remember Cast your mind back if you can to the halcyon days of February 2020: that carefree age when you could leave the house at will to go around touching your face and buying toilet paper with abandon. It was in this bygone era, when gathering hundreds of charity people in a bar was a convivial prospect rather than an invitation to certain doom, that the 2020 Harris Hill Charity Series Quiz Night took place. And rather good it was too. You’ll perhaps be wondering who held the winners’ trophy aloft, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - who knows how many months we might have to spin this out for - so firstly some very well-deserved thank-yous: to our wonderful hosts at Patch St Paul’s, who’ve hosted countless times and always manage to make a hectic night look effortless with smiles all round; and to our quizmasters extraordinaire Rob Wyatt and Matthew Glass, not to mention all the rest of the organising committee who work so hard to bring these events together so brilliantly. The big draw There are also thank-yous galore when it comes to the other big draw of the night, the fundraising raffle, which this year will make a real difference close to home, contributing to a much-needed specialised wheelchair for Muscular Dystrophy's Ravi, who never misses an event despite living with the condition himself. We’ve had some fantastic prizes before but this year’s selection was surely the biggest and best to date, all donated thanks to the huge generosity of the organisations and businesses below that we would strongly encourage you to go and frequent! Not right now obviously – they’ll be closed and you might get arrested, which is never as much fun as it looks. (In no particular order, that's Vauxhall's Embody Wellness and Floatworks spas, the Movember Foundation, Mondo Brewery, Northcote Biscuiteers, Linnaen restaurant and spa, Headcase Barbers, stylish retailer Oliver Bonas, Psycle Clapham, Sadhana Yoga & Wellbeing, the Sipsmith Gin Distillery, Beefeater Gin Distillery and a small team you may be aware of called Manchester United Football Club!) There were even more prizes on the night too - we don't have all the details in this new home-working world, but our huge thanks to you too! Of course there’d be nothing raised if nobody bought tickets, so an enormous thank you to every single person who did, and once again to our CEO Aled Morris for bumping up the total quite significantly to raise a fantastic final figure of £2,200! ---------- And so to the winners… There are some familiar names among our titans of useless trivia this year, and after a closely-fought contest there was a tie for second place between 2018 winners the Canal & River Trust, who nearly barged (sorry) right back to the top, and the combined talents of The Brooke and C40, collectively known as The Globetrotters! But out in front and fast becoming Charity Series legends, a team who know things as well as they throw things (given their second place in 2018's quiz and victory in November's bowling), our congratulations go to the irrepressible Citizens Advice aka The BearOs! All of which begs the question, can they follow up those consecutive quiz and bowling triumphs by doing the triple and topping this summer’s charity softball league? Sadly the coronavirus may have something to say about that, as we wait to see the extent of its impact on the 2020 season. Naturally the committee will be watching developments closely and doing whatever can possibly be done, but safety of course comes first, so all we can say for now is watch this space! Just not all from the same place, obviously. Until next time - whenever and wherever that may be - take care and stay safe! Team HH x More from the Harris Hill blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? ► The Harris Hill and CharityJob 2019 Salary Report ► How to be assertive at work ► How to set goals (and stick to them in style) ► Back to the blog homepage
Ever wish you were more assertive, when those 'few little requests' become a giant mountain of work? Our guest blogger, freelance writer and HR specialist Nicola Greenbrook has been finding out how, with insight from professionals in and out of the charity sector. How to be assertive at work Assertiveness is an essential workplace skill, but can be tricky to apply if you’re an introvert or have trouble speaking up. Many of us avoid being more assertive through fear that our colleagues, and boss, will think badly of us. Yet, taking on just.one.more project despite a full inbox can lead to over-work, over-tiredness and overwhelm - not to mention a dent in your personal life. So, how can we reclaim the power? Should I be aggressive, passive or assertive? First, let’s explore these different behaviours: • Aggressiveness can be defined as ‘a determination to win or succeed, and the use of forceful action to do this’. Fictional fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly is a wicked master of this. • Passivity on the other hand is ‘acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance’. Always going with the flow and yielding to other people’s demands can lead to burnout and resentment. • Assertiveness falls somewhere between the two extremes. Not simply being calm, confident and firm with your convictions and decisions, being assertive is a state where you approach situations assuredly and objectively and are happy to seek feedback, aware of the growth and development it can bring. A satisfying compromise. Assertiveness in the charity world For people working in the third sector, the need to balance assertiveness with empathy - listening to service users, understanding their circumstances and inspiring action - can often be a particular challenge. In a recent LinkedIn thread, the author had observed the number of women in her office who over-apologised (for getting into the lift, having the door held open for them or just taking up space). As part of the discussion, Garry Wilkinson, Head of Charity Partnerships at Vintage Cash Cow considered whether being a chronic apologiser isn’t necessary limited to women. ‘Maybe it’s also something to do with sorts of people who work in the Third Sector; they tend to be people with high levels of empathy and are very conscious of the feelings of others,’ he suggested. Christina Grant, an executive coach and trainer for the fundraising sector has considerable insight in this area. She believes the fundraising role is fundamentally an influencing one. However, she observes that whilst her trainees are drawn to the sector by a desire to make a difference, limited budgets can often mean they lack adequate training or support in influencing and assertiveness. Fundraising also attracts a high number of women. Yet senior teams, major donors and senior leaders in organisations remain predominately male-dominated - and so influencing is even more critical. She believes the fundraiser has a challenging role, because in a first meeting with a donor or supporter, ‘they have to be seen as friendly and warm whilst also being authoritative, knowledgeable and credible’ so as to be trusted with a gift. Women also face even greater challenges at work when they start displaying assertive behaviours in the workplace which are then deemed as ‘bossy’ or overly aggressive. So what can we do to address this? The power of words We’ve all heard people say ‘you need to be more assertive!’. But what if you can’t find the words or find yourself apologising instead? Olivia Dunn, Head of Marketing and Communications at Halpin Partnership Ltd has observed women and men disempowering themselves with the words they use at work. In her insightful article ‘The shortcut to empowered communications’, she offers valuable advice on using emboldening language without bravado. Olivia suggests ditching ‘just’ (‘I’m just part-time’) and ‘I think’ which can dilute your point before you’ve even made it. She makes a compelling argument; it’s not the words you add in but the ones you remove which can empower you. Why it's win-win to be assertive at work Being professionally assertive can increase your self-confidence and lower your anxiety and dependency. It can also help you stay in control and communicate more effectively and healthily. A graphic designer from London shared with me how assertiveness worked for them: ‘Last year I worked on a particularly messy job for a lovely client.’ they explained. ‘Remaining assertive throughout the project meant the experience for both me and my client remained positive - even when the project became a source of stress. The feedback at the end of the job was that I handled things with grace’. Setting clear boundaries about what they were OK with in their own mind before conveying them externally, as well as taking control when requests from clients or others feel ‘too much’, was a useful strategy for them: ‘Instead of saying ‘no’ and explaining why I can’t do what they want, I try to respond positively. I explain what I CAN do and when, or I pass them on to someone who may be able to help, instead of giving the impression they’re inconveniencing me. If someone ignores or shuts down my assertiveness with a passive-aggressive response (including no response), I’ve learnt to let it go, move on and find people to work with who are a much better fit.’ How to be assertive! Assertiveness may not be an innate characteristic for everyone, but it can be learned and developed. Christina Grant emphasises the importance of body language and gestures in key meetings, especially when making first impressions. She explains, ‘For example, it’s important for women to seat themselves in prime spots in a meeting room and to be present in the room physically’. She points out that seemingly little things can affect this; being overly concerned about everyone's comfort and refreshments or taking responsibility for taking notes when no one else does. ‘This can sometimes damage our own credibility without us realising it (although if a woman has enough confidence she could take notes and make tea and it would not have an impact on how she is perceived)’ Christina explains. She also encourages women to ‘open’ meetings with a two-minute, strong introduction, to ensure other attendees know they're ‘leading’ the meeting and will sense their authority. ‘It should help other people to relax and feel confident that you have a plan and you're in control - not in an aggressive way, but rather a signal that you’re confident in your world’. Here are some final strategies on being assertive at work: • Practice outside of work first. Build up your assertiveness muscle; speak up about bad service or ask for the table you want at a restaurant. • Set clear boundaries. Career and business coach, Nathalina Harrison likens good assertiveness to good parenting. Put clear boundaries in place on how you want to be treated and communicated with and be clear about the consequences if they’re not adhered to, whether upwards (your manager and stakeholders), sideways (your peers) and downwards (your direct reports). • Be analytical. If you want to be assertive but you're hesitant and reluctant to speak up, do a quick analysis of the situation. What’s the worst that could happen? ______________ Assertiveness is an invaluable skill. It can bolster your career progression, improve your visibility and credibility in meetings and strengthen relationships with colleagues, clients and contacts. Being confident in your approach, removing disempowering words and setting clear boundaries will ensure you nail it at work. I’m certain you’ll like your assertive (not aggressive) self a lot better than the passive, exhausted resentful one and soon that mountain of work won’t look so daunting. Just don’t be Miranda Priestly, OK? That’s all. Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist and Freelance Writer Contact Nicola, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter. More from Nicola Greenbrook How to set goals (and stick to them in style) ► Podcast your way to workplace wellbeing ► How to negotiate a pay rise in the charity sector ► More from the Harris Hill blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? ► Caudwell Children: Building a better world for disabled children ► The Harris Hill Charity Series 2020 ►
HRRRRRRRRNNNNK! HRRRRRRRRNNNNK! Yes, as you’ve so rightly guessed, that's the unmistakable sound of the Harris Hill Charity Series klaxon signalling the start of the 2020 Series! But what is the Harris Hill Charity Series? We decided to ask the question. In slightly larger blue type. What is the Harris Hill Charity Series? We’re so glad you asked. In the most straightforward terms, it’s a series of three fantastic inter-charity contests that just get more and more popular by the year: February’s big quiz night (more of which in a moment), bowling night in November, and right through the summer from May to August, the daddy of them all: the London Charity Softball League! For us, it's also a way to give something back to the sector we love working with. We can’t claim credit for organising the events – that’s all down to the tireless and super-committed committee from numerous charities who heroically (and entirely voluntarily) do the hard work in their free time to make it all happen, and who we really can’t thank enough. But we're delighted to have been lead sponsor since time immemorial, currently estimated to be somewhere around 2005. If you’re under 35 or so, that’s a year from the distant past when you were probably still at school or uni, while for the more ‘vintage’ among us it’s one of those that feels about three months ago and cannot possibly be FIFTEEN YEARS already. Yikes. How can my charity get involved? Via the aforementioned committee who you can read about here and here, and much like the other A-Team, ‘if no-one else can help... and if you can find them' (ideally Mr Leo Visconti, founding father of the softball league) maybe you can sign up for the next available event. All charities are welcome, and if you're keen to play softball but don't have the numbers for a full team, do not despair: many of the league's top teams are a hybrid of two or more charities working together, a great example of the collaborative and supportive spirit that makes the league something really quite special to be part of (but still fiercely competitive!) Meanwhile, speaking of hybrid teams and the next event... It's the 2020 quiz night! Yes, tomorrow if you're reading this today (Feb 24th), today if you're reading this tomorrow, and 'some time ago' if you're watching this on catch-up, the Harris Hill Charity Series Quiz Night is back! Around 40 charities will be heading to the fabulous Patch St Paul's, where the winning combo of Can Mezzanine and Disability Rights UK (aka The Cantelopes) took top honours in 2019, very closely followed by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and Lumos. Just a few rounds of challenging questions now stand between us and knowing who's the smartest in the sector (SPOILER ALERT: probably not us), and there are some particularly fantastic prizes to be won in this year's fundraising raffle. So our huge appreciation and a round of applause if you will please, for these brilliant businesses who've kindly donated prizes, including Vauxhall's Embody Wellness and Floatworks spas, Mondo Brewery, Northcote Biscuiteers, the stylish Linnaen restaurant and spa, Oliver Bonas, Psycle Clapham, Sadhana Yoga & Wellbeing and the ever-popular Sipsmith Gin and Beefeater Gin! One last note for those attending, don't forget to bring some cash for raffle tickets if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning one of these brilliant prizes (and there are more to come!), may the best team win, and we'll see you there! Team HH x More from the Harris Hill blog ► View all current charity vacancies ►
Does size matter? It’s a question we’re certainly not the first to tackle - if that’s the word - but what size of charity is best for your career? The bigger the better? Or do the best things really come in small packages? Here's what our fundraising team and deputy CEO Faye Marshall had to say in a 2019 article for The Fundraiser (relevant for most other charity jobs too), updated here for the blog. Should you be working for a large or small charity? As specialist recruiters we work with charities of all sizes, helping fundraisers find those best aligned with their priorities. For some the environment or location will be more important than progression, for others career development may be paramount, and for many of course, the cause in question will be top of the list. Sometimes only one type of charity will do, but in many cases there are both larger and smaller options, each with their own advantages. So how do you know where to go? Appropriately enough there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but what we'd recommend generally depends on three things: where you are in your career, your experience to date and where you ultimately want to go. Let's start at the beginning. Starting out If it’s your first charity job, the best place for your baby steps may be the biggest organisations. That might sound counter-intuitive but as with any new job, there’ll be downtime while you learn the ropes and won’t be fully productive. You’ll also need training, and someone with the time and resources to deliver it. All of this means there are costs, which are often unaffordable for small charities operating on little more than Hobnobs and hope. However their larger counterparts are more likely to have support for new starters in place, as philanthropy manager Annabelle Burt told us of her role at NSPCC: "Starting my charity career in a large organisation has without a doubt been the best decision I’ve made. The organisation invests a great deal in personal development, and they’ve already given me countless opportunities to attend nationwide conferences and training with the best in the business. I’m given all the support I need to succeed in my role and really value being able to learn about different areas of the charity sector from collaborative working with other departments." Stick or twist? Perhaps you’ve now got a couple of years under your belt, doing direct marketing for a major charity. You're enjoying it, maybe even to the point you can't imagine doing anything else - but nevertheless it’s usually wise to diversify. Specialising too soon may limit your options later – for example after six solid years when you see the perfect direct marketing job, but the candidates you’re competing with have four years in DM and two in other fields. Many employers will favour your competitors for their more varied, well-rounded experience. And the same of course applies should you change your mind and want to branch out later. So it’s worth trying different things: don’t put yourself in a pigeon-hole unless you’re prepared for the possibility of living there permanently. Like beanbags, debt, and conversations with people who’ve taken up CrossFit, they’re easier to get into than out of, and best avoided if possible. Shifting down can be the best way up Moving to a smaller charity is often a fantastic way to branch out. Leaving that large DM department behind, you might now be a team of one - and it's unlikely to be the only thing you do. Whatever your job title might suggest, in a small team you’ll always need to help each other out, which could mean events, community projects, partnerships with local businesses and more. And with few support staff you’ll likely do more than just fundraising, which could mean admin, marketing, media relations, procurement (somebody’s got to buy the teabags) or even catering and hospitality, because those cakes for the big event won’t bake themselves. It's a challenge for sure, but a great way to develop existing skills and discover others you didn't know you had, while gaining diverse and multifaceted experience that's likely to broaden your future options. Speaking of which... Further into your career: where next? By now you’re perhaps looking for your third or fourth fundraising job, and having worked for both larger and smaller charities you’ve got the experience to go in either direction. The best move now largely depends on where you're ultimately looking to go, so it's a good time to take stock and think hard about where that is. Then, consider what you've done and more importantly, what you haven't yet done to help you to get there, and aim to plug any gaps that could hold you back. If you’re aspiring to a directorship with a top ten charity for example, you’ll need to start boosting the big-name experience on your CV. Ultimately it may just come down to the environment you prefer, and on which side of the whole big fish/small pond question you feel more at home. Both have their advantages (and drawbacks) of course, so here are some that we've yet to cover: ► Autonomy can be huge part of the appeal: if you’re the entire corporate fundraising team, guess who’s in charge? If you’re used to following procedures and losing even your most brilliant ideas to multi-layered, glacially-paced approval processes, the freedom to chart your own course is both liberating and exhilarating. ► As a result you’ll be very hands-on, designing and delivering your campaigns from end to end. You’ll get to do it all yourself, the only drawback being that you’ll have to do it all yourself, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in making things happen. Whatever you do will be noticed, so you can bask in the credit when it works - though of course with nowhere to hide if it doesn’t. ► That close connection with leadership helps small charities to be more agile, changing course more quickly than their bigger brethren. Getting the whole organisation on board with your new initiative is a lot easier when you can fit everyone in one room. ► Usually you’ll also be close enough to your beneficiaries to see that you’re making a difference – something fundraisers buried far from the frontline in a major charity HQ may envy. ► Having a well-known name can have significant advantages in key areas like fundraising and marketing. For one thing, if you don’t need to explain who you are, you’ve got more time or space to make your case. And there’s no denying it looks good on your CV. That said, while a big name might open some doors, it isn’t always an advantage: a 2018 study by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership found public trust in national charities significantly lower (at just 29%) than in local community charities (43%). ► However, you’ll have more resources to call on in your fundraising efforts, and often on a larger scale: partnering with a major corporation for example, or a national TV advertising campaign, experience you’re unlikely to gain locally. ► Arguably the clearest advantage is the prospect of progression. If you’re the events person for a small charity but want to manage a team, you’ll either need to grow the charity considerably (and fast) or move somewhere big enough to have one. Even if there’s a role above you to aim for, there could be a long wait before it’s a vacancy. By nature, larger organisations will have more opportunities more often, so there’s more chance of moving up without having to move out entirely. What about salaries and benefits? Things are more evenly matched when it comes to things like flexible working and staff benefits. Both large and small charities tend to score highly, but large-scale events and the social side of bigger organisations may give them an edge, depending on your preference. As for salaries, check out the Harris Hill & CharityJob 2019 Salary Report which has market rates for more than 120 different roles in the sector, including differences in pay between small, medium and large charities. While larger organisations do appear to pay a little more in general, as you might perhaps expect, the full picture is rather more complex. Most of the disparity is at senior levels, based on larger remits and scope, but at the junior end there's often very little difference. There are certainly big name charities who offer small starting salaries, knowing their brand alone will bring in new talent, just as there are smaller organisations paying above average to attract potential staff. So at least in the early part of your career, charity size is unlikely to have a huge impact on pay. You might earn a little less at a smaller charity, but that could pay off handsomely in future thanks to your greater breadth of experience. So where should you go next? Most of the fundraisers we work with move between both large and small organisations several times in their career, and it’s a good strategy. The strongest CVs have a balance of both, and the breadth of experience you’ll gain will give you the option to move in either direction. Meanwhile if you’re switching charity sizes, be sure to read the job description in detail. Jobs with the same title may have very different remits depending on the size of charity, so know what you’re in for and be wary of assumptions. Don’t let the bright lights of a big brand blind you to what’s actually a more limited role, for example, or dismiss a superb opportunity on account of a name that you’ve never heard of. And if you’re not sure of your next move, consider where you eventually want to be, and what’s missing from your CV to get there. The chances are that’s your answer. Final thoughts: we've inevitably made some generalisations here, and for every trend we’ve mentioned there are charities busily bucking it. But both large and small charities can offer superb career opportunities, and the best advice we can give is to make the most of them however you can. Plenty of factors can make a great employer, so a charity’s size isn’t everything. Believe it or not, it really is what you do with it that counts. Faye Marshall, director of permanent recruitment and deputy CEO, Harris Hill Search all charity jobs ► More from the Harris Hill blog How to negotiate a pay rise in the charity sector ► Charity Careers 5: meet SPANA's Chris Oak, Associate Director of HR ► How to write a great supporting statement ► The Harris Hill and CharityJob 2019 Salary Report ► Return to the blog homepage