There’s a growing trend of people making the switch from the corporate to the “helping” sectors, as we’ll call them, the charity, social, and government jobs that emphasize change.
With more and more organisations able to offer competitive wages in central locations, workers are seeing the rewarding possibilities of working for a non-profit.
However, it’s not just a matter of deciding to make the switch then moving to a new job overnight: finding a role in the new sector will take time, and should be considered a long term aspiration.
Below, we take a look at how you can make a move into a career where you’ll be able to make a real difference.
What’s the Motivation?
There’ll be a lot of people out there who like the idea of working for a non-profit, but when it comes down to it, it’s worth remembering that working for a charity or social organisation is a significant change – and should be considered as such when weighing up the options.
Before committing to the idea, think of what lies behind your desire to move. You’ll be able to make a difference, but there’s no magic wand: the differences you make might be slight, and you’re sure to come up plenty of roadblocks in your quest to do good.
If you can weigh up the pros and cons of third sector jobs and remain determined to do it as a job, then it might just be for you.
What You Can Bring
The good news is that if you have years of corporate experience under your belt, then you’ll have the skills that employers are looking for. More and more, organisations in the third sector are operating as a corporate company, with similar chains of command and ways of practice.
Before you begin looking for a job, take a look at the skills you’ll be able to bring – more likely than not, you’ll have tons of relevant experience. If you’ve been involved in sales, for example, then you know you’re already talented at talking to people and bringing them around to your way of thinking.
What organisation, especially in the charity sector, wouldn’t like to have a worker with that skill set? You’ll need to build on your existing skills, so they’re more relevant to a different industry, but it’s a solid foundation to build on.
The Causes You’re Interested In
The helping sector is big; arguably as big as the corporate sector, and there are a million and one things you could do in it. If you’re passionate about working with disadvantaged children, there’ll be organisations to connect with. The same goes for the environment, healthcare, politics, and the long list of other organisation types.
Think about what it is you care about. This will stem back to your motivation for wanting to help; when you first thought of moving away from the corporate sector, what did you imagine you would be doing?
A useful starting point is to ask yourself what global issues you want to improve, and then get more specific from there.
Once you know the type of field you want to work in, you can begin the process of learning about it, and then which subdivision of that cause you want to be a part of.
The environmental sector could be further divided into wildlife, climate change, cities of the future, and much more, for example.
If you want to work with people, then which type of people – people with substance abuse problems, disadvantaged children, or people with disabilities?
Read up on the issues that people working in that sector are trying to solve and what their jobs entail; you’ll soon have a better understanding of how you can help.
It’s not advisable to hand in your notice and move to another job in another industry before you have some idea of what it’s like to do that type of work.
Volunteering is an excellent way to start your journey toward a helping career without the pressure of being in the deep end. This is flexible, so you’ll be able to fit in your volunteering around your current job.
It could be a couple of hours each weekend, one day a month, or anything else – it’ll all help your understanding, and also show potential employers that you’re serious about the cause when it comes to applying for jobs.
There are, admittedly, a few corporate workers out there who baulk at the idea of undertaking an internship. Internships are for workers new to the industry, those without the experience to get a real job, they might think, and they’d be right.
However, in this scenario, the corporate workers might just be those inexperienced workers!
While there should be many jobs available, the biggest and most competitive non-corporate industries are harder to crack into. You can learn a lot during an internship, and if you’re serious about making the switch, then it might be a good idea. And talking of learning….
Ready to Learn
You’ll have a lot of transferable knowledge you learned in the corporate sector, but don’t assume that you have all the skills needed to find a job in the non-corporate sector.
You’ll need to be ready to learn all you can before you apply, and in some cases, it might be essential that you top-up your existing education with a new course.
If you want to work in a social work position, then studying for an MSW – Masters of Social Work – will give you the concentrated knowledge you need to excel in the role.
If you want to work for a climate change organisation, then taking a course in environmental sciences will help you understand the broader impact of what you’re trying to achieve, regardless of your position within the sector.
Applying For Jobs
The job market for jobs in social care, health work, charities, and the like isn’t as extensive as the global corporate sector, but it’s still sizable, and competition can also be fierce for the best jobs.
More than corporate jobs, charities love to see that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about their cause; remember, the workers are there because they’re passionate about they do. They won’t consider an application if it’s a standard, copy and pasted application that’s clearly been sent out to multiple organisations.
Research the company thoroughly and outline precisely why you want to work for them, not just in that field.
You should be prepared to start small, both regarding the company you work for and the job you’re doing. It’ll take time before you have the knowledge to work your way up in an organisation, so prepare to spend the first few months doing anything and everything in your new position.
Also, it’s often easier to get jobs in smaller charities – they might not have as big a budget or workforce of other organisations, but they will provide a useful learning curve for your first job away from the corporate sector.
Easily Transferable Jobs
We’ve talked a lot about taking your existing skills and adapting them for a new sector, but this isn’t always necessary. Some positions are not industry specific and can transfer from one role to the next with ease.
An example of this would be IT work: every organisation needs an IT worker. Your duties might be the same, but you might feel more satisfied knowing the bottom line of what you’re doing is making a positive impact in the world.
Curb Your Expectations
It’s worth remembering that some positions simply can’t compete, financially, with the corporate sector.
Starting wages are nearly always lower, but this shouldn’t put you off – there’s enough scope for taking home a good salary that it shouldn’t be a deciding factor. Just be aware that new, inexperienced staff will start on the lower rungs of the ladder.
When you do eventually find a job, be prepared to give yourself time to adjust to your new environments. The culture between the social work industry and corporate sector, for example, can be vastly different.
As with all changes in life, however, you will eventually grow used to – and in all likelihood, prefer – your new environment.
Remember the Objective
Moving into a sector that has a good cause at the root of its core mission isn’t easy. Coming from the corporate sector, you can’t plan on just turning up and getting a new job without proving yourself first.
As we mentioned above, you should think of moving to the new sector as a longer term goal.
Figure out how you want to make a difference, work on getting the qualifications needed, volunteer in that area, and then spend time engaging with people who currently work in the kind of jobs you would like to have.
There’s a strong case to be made for doing a job that makes a positive difference, and that’s why so many people are making the change.
If you think it’s time for you, take the tips above and begin your journey to a new career.