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Moving jobs in to the ‘Third / Public Sector’?

Journey 2

There is a wish by many to work within Local Authorities, Charities or Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), often due to wanting to offer something back to the community at large. With over 23,000 registered charities in Scotland (208,000 UK-wide), the range of options is vast and ensuring a focus and a rationale is vital if only to establish your own credentials – and how they might fit.

Those who have a range of experience and who also want to ‘give something back to the community’ often favour making a move into the so-called Third Sector - essentially either charities, or non-government organisations (NGOs). In other words, far from seeking a role like this for its financial appeal (although some senior roles are highly paid), quite the opposite is true. This can sometimes appeal to people who are in, shall we say, the ‘twilight zone’ of their career: masses of experience which can be offered in a wide range of specialities, energy and a willingness to put it all to good use. The trouble, however, is that there is often a lack of focus at this point, possibly even a lack of understanding of a) what these various organisations do and b) how your own experience would be of special benefit to them.

There are over 23,000 registered charities in Scotland (185,000 in England and Wales) and they range in size from the very big (e.g. Red Cross, RNLI) to your local fundraiser for the elderly. Some at the top end are huge £multi-million, international organisations, all of whom will have opportunities for anything from CEO through to those who simply want to ‘lend a hand’. These could include, e.g. financial control, events management, fundraising, marketing, CRM, project management – the list is endless. And because the sector is so large, there are also specialist recruitment agencies, such as AWS in Edinburgh - and many more who offer the same thing. 

At the very least, they can offer advice as to where your specific skills might fit (i.e. in which sort of role and in which charity sector). You may then want to dust off your CV and contact one or two directly – and advice on how to go about that is also available from specialist career advisors. 

In many ways NGOs fall into the same category as charities, but they differ substantially in how they’re viewed by the taxman (who tends to look more leniently on registered charities). However, governmental or public sector experience could be extremely useful and, as with charities, the range of NGO options and role opportunities is vast. So yes, your own skills and experience could be very attractive to any number of organisations – most of whom would be happy to hear from you.

The charity-led ‘Third Sector’ incorporates a vast number of organisations, each of which has to be run by people with a wide range of skills and relevant experience who will also need others with similar skills to join them.

The reasons for anyone wishing to join their number can be various, and often (but not always) altruistic but, as with all job-seeking, research is vital. There are recruiters who specialise in this sector and they can usually offer sound advice. Used in conjunction with a focused regime of networking, doors should open.

Key Points

  • Absorb and understand the vastness of the sector
  • Know the difference between a charity and an NGO
  • Identify your key skills and how they might adapt
  • Consult specialist recruiters and/or careers advisors
  • Make contact directly with specific organisations
  • Network with those who might offer an insight, help or advice