Give your CV a voluntary sector facelift

If you’re trying to switch your career to the voluntary sector and feel at a disadvantage because you’ve not worked in the sector before there are things you can do to help your CV to stand out.

I’ve recently been working with a group of people on our Working For A Charity Programme looking to transfer their skills from the public or private sector into the voluntary sector. They left the course with brand spanking new CVs and these were the tips they picked up:

Think differently about your skills

Two wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces togetherFor some it might be a straight swap into the voluntary sector. For instance, if you’re an accountant or offer IT support, you’ll find similar roles in most large charities.

But if your previous roles have been very sector specific do not despair; your skills are likely to be very transferable. For example, if you’ve been working in sales you may have the interpersonal skills and database knowledge suited to a fundraising role. Or if you’ve worked with the national press or are especially proficient on social media then a communications team in a charity might snap you up.

If you’re not sure where your skills might fit in a charity then you can use our Skills Profile to find out.

Be proud of your life experience

DYou know those up and downs that we go through in life and you’ve previously seen as separate to your career or tried to hide from your CV? They may well be viewed or valued differently in the voluntary sector.

Did you lose your last job because you blew the whistle on something that you felt was wrong? Liberty might want to hear from you. Did you take some time off last year to adopt a child? You’ll be in a great position to help others who are going through the same thing with an adoption charity. Have you supported your partner with a mental health problem? MIND would certainly value this experience.

If you have any life experience that relates to the core work or the values of the organisation that you’re applying to then they’ll certainly want to hear about it. And don’t forget to include any volunteer experience that you’ve had, be this organising a school fete or a church raffle, it all demonstrates your commitment and interest.

Spell it out

documentpngA role as a systems analyst might make sense to an IT firm but not to a sports charity.

When they’re inundated with CVs for a job, people may well skim over yours and miss the relevance of your previous roles to the voluntary sector. Make it really clear on your CV which skills you have and how they can be transferred to the voluntary sector role.

You might want to consider completely changing the format to a Functional CV. Unlike the most common chronological CV the focus is on your skills, abilities and expertise, rather than your career history.

Highighting your skills and experience in these ways should put you in a strong position for a role in the voluntary sector. But don’t forget the passion or dedication that’s behind your move as showing this to an employer through volunteering and finding out about the cause and the organisation is what will ultimately ensure you clinch that coveted role.

For links to agencies that will help you to volunteer or find a paid role in the sector check out the Working For A Charity website.

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Georgina Anstey presents the voluntary sector as a positive career option, reflects on what makes it unique and offers tips on getting in to and working in the sector.

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