non profit careers

August 12, 2016, by Mike Walker

Not for Profit: What It’s Like to Work for a Charity [Part Two]

Ever thought about working for a charity, but not sure what it would be like? In the second part of my series on careers in the charity sector – read part one here – I caught up with Mark Colliass, a graphic designer for the charity Open Doors, to find out. Here’s what we talked about.

What does a typical working week look like in the charity sector?

“We have the same typical day-to-day tasks as any other job. Generally the week starts off by looking at the tasks we need to complete.”

As Open Doors is a Christian charity, he explained that:

“We start every morning with a meeting where we all gather as an office and someone leads a devotional time, to begin the day to focus on the purpose for their work.”

What are the specific things your job role entails?

“As one of two graphic designers I help produce the resources that Open Doors sends out to our supporters. This includes material like our bi-monthly magazine, prayer packs, and church service guides. I also help design website banners and small graphics related tasks.”

How did you find the job vacancy at Open Doors, and are there any websites or companies you’d recommend to students looking for work in the charity sector?

“I was quite lucky because a good friend of mine was working at Open Doors and mentioned that they were looking for a new graphic designer. If you’re not quite as lucky it’s always worth regularly checking vacancies on websites of charities you would be keen to work for. Another great way is getting to know the people at the charities by volunteering at events or offering to speak publicly to raise awareness for the charity. In this way, you will naturally create relationships with people who work for the organisation and show that you have a passion for that particular charity.”

What appealed to you about your role, and how did you demonstrate the relevant experience?

“The main reasons are that I enjoy doing it and is a worthwhile job. I like the fact I’m contributing to a good cause by using skills I’ve learnt. For a while before working at Open Doors I worked freelance, and one of the projects I’d just finished was the branding for a small charity called Prayer Spaces in Schools who were changing their brand to BeSpace. I think one of the main reasons that I got the job was an example leaflet which I’d designed that was relevant to similar resources that Open Doors produced.”

“Building a portfolio of work or experience that is directly relevant to the role you are applying for – whether that is evidence of volunteering or content (such as blogs or graphic media) that you have produced – will stand you in good stead!”

What appealed to you about the role?

“I think a big part of enjoyment from the job is the responsibility, as the design team only has two people we often work on our own projects and have to take charge for getting them completed. It often means you have to stay fairly organised and be proactive in time management.”

What do you enjoy about your role, and why?

“I enjoy working as part of a bigger team. I often work with multiple people on projects: project managers, copywriters etc. It’s enjoyable bouncing ideas off of people with different skill sets and backgrounds, it can often end up with an exciting result.”

What advice would you offer to someone wanting to work in a charity, either as a graphic designer or in another role?

“I would say take every opportunity you can to learn. As I’m not working in a design studio I often find that perhaps I’m not getting challenged as much as I would if I was in an environment where I would be working on a wide variety of very different projects. You have to stick to a set of design guidelines when working for a charity, so sometimes expressing creativity is difficult. Look out for opportunities to apply new skills you have learnt.”

“For example, if you like design but you are also enjoy photography, invest in developing that skill; perhaps if they have an event where they need a photographer in the future, you could be the first person they look to!”

“If you can demonstrate a wide variety of skills and interests at interview and in your first few months at work, it could open up a wide array of opportunities in the future as people recognise your talents and draw on them in the workplace.”

Are you interested in working for a charity? You can find out more information on our website. If you have a specific role in mind, book an appointment with one of our team who can help you through the application process.

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