Myth 1: You don’t get paid.
Ok. You might know that many charities have paid employees as well as volunteers but we promise that you will definitely have at least one relative who doesn’t and who will say ‘so is that volunteering then?’ when you announce your newly achieved position. You will need to explain that you do in fact get paid.
You can also expect to be paid fairly. This means in keeping with pay for your type of role in charities like the one you work for. You can also negotiate pay and ask for pay increases when your role changes and responsibilities.
Isn’t the pay in the charity sector really bad though? It depends on many things including the size of the charity. And yes, while in some roles at some levels you will be earning less than someone with your skills and experience could in other sectors, the reverse is sometimes true too. The important thing is to make sure you are being paid fairly for your job in the size and type of charity you work for.
Myth 2: You can’t have a career.
This is maybe a hangover from a time when charity was associated with wealthy do-gooders with time and money on their hands, but it isn’t the case now. Far from being a back-up plan, or a time filler until you work out what you ‘really’ want to, the charity sector offers exciting, challenging and rewarding career development. Many areas of work in charities offer clear career progression starting from entry level roles up to the Director level.
When you are starting out, it is a good idea to look around your organisation and other charities and see which jobs seem exciting and something you’d like to do one day. Ask people to tell you about their careers. The more people you speak to, the more you’ll get a sense of the type of experiences it would be useful for you to try and build into yours.
Myth 3: Jobs are really insecure.
None of us want to feel that our jobs may not be secure, and this is especially the case if we don’t have other sources of money to back us up if things go wrong. But this isn’t a reason to write off the whole charity sector. The charity sector does have uncertainty, but unfortunately so does every organisation, whether for profit or not. The most important thing you can do is be realistic and seek out the right information.
Jobs in charities can be funded in many different ways. Some jobs are offered on contracts for fixed periods of time, usually because there is funding from a grant for that period. The job application pack will explain if the role is permanent or a contract and if so, when the contract ends. It will also often say how the role is funded if it’s from a grant. If it’s a contract, it is perfectly acceptable and normal to ask before you apply, or in the interview, if they expect the contract to be renewed or if they expect other roles will come up when the contract ends.
You can’t avoid uncertainty by avoiding the charity sector but you can give yourself some reassurance by looking for jobs with contracts that are right for your situation and making sure you ask for the information you need to decide if that’s the case.