Advantages can be very meaningful and rewarding...
Disadvantages can be thankless and underpaid!
Have you ever wanted to work for an organisation who’s mission is a cause rather than a bottom-line?Since early campaigning work with pressure groups I had always envied people who had salaried positions with charities and other voluntary organisations. It seemed to me the perfect way to combine the causes I believed in with the necessity to earn a living, therefore the ideal career.
However it wasn’t one I got into straight away as I went travelling after leaving school and didn’t go to University until I was about 21. At this point I had just moved back to the area I had grown up in but felt strangely rootless after drifting for a while. I wanted to feel more grounded in the community, and applied to the local Victim Support scheme – at this stage I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise, but responded to their ad for volunteers to support local victims of crime.This was ideal for me as I was interested in community safety and justice, and my degree I was studying at the time was in Community Psychology so there were lots of parallels. In my second year I had to do a placement with a community organisation, so I was able to arrange to do this at the scheme… my involvement deepened, and I learned a great deal more about how the organisation worked. I was also able to undertake advanced training to work on more serious cases, such as supporting families of murder victims.
A year or so after that a temporary vacancy arose at the scheme, and being the only volunteer who knew how the office ran as well I was offered the position as their deputy co-ordinator. It fitted in reasonably well with my studying as it wasn’t full time, and I really enjoyed being responsible for aspects of the day-to-day running of the scheme: matching volunteers up with cases, liaising with police etc, recruiting new volunteers… for a tiny organisation, run on an absolute shoestring, it was an incredibly complex set up.As graduation loomed I started applying for jobs in hundreds of different organisations, and eventually got the procedure down to a fine art – I written ops about this before so won’t repeat them here!. Before long I was starting to get interviewed, and eventually found a job in another part of London managing a new project.
I had no idea why I had been selected, and found out later that the project was so unpopular – seen as diverting resources from existing work, and managed by some incredibly difficult people - that no-one already working in the area had applied. So basically I was struggling with one of the most predictable situation in voluntary action: trying to deliver the impossible. The impossible, in terms of targets and outputs, had of course been blithely promised by the management committee in order to secure the funding to employ me, and this is the way it nearly always works – so the professional who has to deliver on the target (which might be legally enshrined in a Service Level Agreement) isn’t involved with setting/negotiating it in the first place.
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