The Third Sector includes organisations that are not-for profit and non governmental, as distinguished from the public and private sectors. It is also referred to as the voluntary, community, non-profit or civic sector.
There are currently over 180,000 charities in the UK today, employing around 778,000 paid workers.
Although there is certainly plenty of opportunity in the sector, getting a first job in a charity, particularly in the current economic climate, can be challenging. There is a wide variety of charities in the sector, providing services in different areas.
Charities also vary greatly in size, with most being small organisations - 89% of charities have an annual income of under £100,000. However, the larger charities employ the greatest number of staff.
One major attraction is the quality of life you get in the sector
Not-for-profit organisations have been quick to realise the merits of a good work-life balance, and they often offer much more flexible working conditions than the private sector, as well as the increased job satisfaction of knowing you are making a positive contribution to society.
Opportunities for career progression are huge
Especially now that the not-for-profit arena is so diverse, skills such as strategic thinking, project management, fundraising and public relations, which are core to many voluntary organisations, are now easily transferable throughout the sector. However, jobs are still in high demand and this sector is very competitive.
Our advice if you are looking to enter the sector is to consider your options first.
Think about what kind of work you’d like to do, and how this correlates with your existing skills. Be flexible and patient. Take time to explore all the options. Then, once you’ve decided on an area, draw up a logical plan.
What should I consider?
Consider your existing skills and previous experience. There is a huge range of organisations in the not for profit sector, requiring employees with a wide variety of skills.
There are some big skills and knowledge gaps that many voluntary sector organisations need to address. These include:
Strategic IT expertise
Strategic planning & thinking
Health & safety
Leadership experience & expertise
However, almost any set of skills will be relevant for some organisations within the sector.
Think about your interest and passions
Charities prefer to employ staff who genuinely believe in their mission, so they remain motivated and enthusiastic. Looking for jobs that fit both your existing skill set and your interests will increase your chances of finding a role, as well as making your time in the sector more rewarding.
Be prepared to be flexible in your requirements
When looking for a job in the sector, you’ll need to balance traditional considerations such as salary, size of organisation and job title, against more intangible benefits like increased job satisfaction, improved benefits and a better working environment.
Gain experience in the sector
Review ways in which you can gain experience of the third sector and your chosen type of organisation. Volunteering, temping or contract work, and becoming a trustee are all ways in which to make yourself much more attractive to prospective employers.
These are the main recruitment areas for not for profit organisations:
Service delivery roles – these roles are at the interface between the organisation’s mission and the people who access the service, for example social work, counselling
Volunteer management and co-ordination
Charity management, finance & administration
Marketing, communications and campaigning – organisations rely on getting their message across using different methods such as major public events and through the media.
Support services such as IT, facilities, secretarial
Infrastructure roles – there is considerable infrastructure set up to support and regulate this sector, for example, the Charity Commission
Policy & research
There is no doubt that a career in the third sector can be rewarding and stimulating and can offer an employee the chance to not only make the present a better place, but to also be part of shaping the future.