Why did you choose to pursue a career in the non-profit sector?
Well I guess my involvement with the charity sector really started when I was in 6th form, where I was encouraged to do a lot of extracurricular work. I got involved with the charity Restless Development, a youth led international development agency. A group of friends and I set-up a small committee to manage a project, run fundraising activities and liaise with charities. I was part of their Youth Action Board and it gave me the opportunity to see behind the scenes of a charity and how they make decisions. I had no prior knowledge of policy or legal structures, so it was great to get a different perspective.
I realised that I enjoy this kind of work and wanted to have a job that had meaning – not just for the sake of money – but something that gave back to the community. I think it’s part of my personality, that I enjoy helping others and when others come to me for help, I like to be the person that’s there for them. So much of my experience comes from voluntary work, so that sector is a huge part of who I am now.
What was it about Charityworks in particular that motivated you to apply?
For me, it was a skills-based motivation. With it being a structured programme with so many elements to it, it was a real opportunity for upskilling myself. At the same time, it also allowed me to explore my career options within the sector, and helped me to not only figure out where I could use my skills but also to identify and articulate what those skills actually were. A lot of my previous experience was front-line and operational, so a more corporate role appealed as it felt like a career step forward for me. Although I should say working in a corporate role did raise some questions for me such as how much involvement will I have, and will I still care about the causes I believe in, not working on the front-line of service delivery.
Tell me a little bit about your experience of the assessment centre.
It was quite nerve-wracking! I had never been to an assessment centre before. It was quite a straining experience being a full day, with back-to-back activities, and I had to prepare for it because it was obviously very competitive. There was definitely a nervousness to it, I’d be wondering “what sort of chances do I have here?” But then there were good things about it too like it was great to meet other people there, and it was quite a friendly environment throughout the day. It was competitive in terms of numbers but we all seemed to want to support each other and everyone seemed to be really encouraging and motivating of one another.
What cause areas are most important to you Kruti? Do you think that your cultural and ethnic background influences your motivation for these causes in particular?
Of course! I’ve witnessed discrimination, I’ve seen racism, I’ve experience it myself in my life, so obviously that’s going to spark a feeling of wanting to change that. So I think that’s definitely a motivating factor as to the causes I support.
Young people and education in general are causes quite close to my heart. I’ve understood the importance of education, growing up to realise how it can help you progress in life. For example I was the first in my immediate family to go to university and get a degree, my parents didn’t have that privilege to move into higher education.
It makes sense that I would want to help other people achieve that too, no matter what background they come from – they should be able to have access to as much education as they like, and I feel especially passionate about that when I think about where I come from in India. Hopefully in the future this is something I can contribute to.
How do your friends and family feel about you working in the non-profit sector? Do they respond any differently to your job title than being in the sector itself?
So I think my immediate family understand now, that I’m clearly interested in the third sector and that I care about it, so they let me get on with it. Initially when I was doing a lot of volunteering they’d ask me “why are you not just getting a job?” I guess they were looking towards more conventional and traditional career paths, and wanted to encourage me to be a doctor, or a banker, or something with some status attached to it!
They don’t really understand what the charity sector entails in its entirety. I mean they get fundraising (which is what I actually do!) and fundraising probably isn’t the best example to put forward to someone who doesn’t ‘get’ the non-profit sector as that’s typically all they know. I don’t think they realise that there are normal professional roles in the sector like marketing, business development, IT or finance. If I was to go to my parents and say I’m an HR Manager for example, they would get that. Charity is run like a business nowadays and they need to understand that there aren’t just a limited number of doors I can open for myself.
I think the other issue is their perception of the financial security of the sector too. The idea that if you work in the charity sector you’re not likely to get paid as much as you would in say the private sector. So there was concern over whether or not I would be financially secure.
How does it feel to be an ethnic minority in the non-profit sector more generally? Is it something you even notice, or does it affect the way you approach things at work?
I think what I would say is that sometimes the cultural differences are there, such as in doing a piece of group work, there may be a difference in how I may interpret or understand a brief and respond to it compared to someone else from a different background. My parents weren’t necessarily highly educated, so round the dinner table we never really talked politics or anything like that – it’s not like a huge focus in our lives in my experience. Things like that seep in to how you think as an adult, so I think that’s where I notice a few differences.
The non-profit sector as a whole definitely has quite a middle-class presence too I think, whilst some of that may be down to wealth. People who can afford to dedicate more time [to causes] or make the move from one job to another, especially from say the private to the third sector if they’re from that background and so that might be why they are more inclined to be involved. I think it’s cultural too though. My parents wouldn’t be too keen on their children moving from job-to-job as to them it’s not very secure, and the move from the private sector to a non-profit would be a concern for them because of this.
If I were someone keen on a career in the non-profit sector, but facing some of the same family pressures and concerns that you have been through, what advice would you have for me?
Firstly, I would say identify what it is around you that bothers you – what is it that you want to make a change to? That will help you understand the causes you believe in. Then follow up on that and challenge any stereotypes that you see, including other people’s thoughts. Challenge them and don’t be too concerned by what people say to you.
On Charityworks in particular I would say you should go for it! You develop so many skills that are transferable and valuable everywhere like team-working and research, and particularly I’ve found in my role, written communication skills are extremely important. One of the things that struck me in my placement is that we have quite a flat structure as a small charity so there’s always a lot being communicated and you get to learn how different teams come together to achieve the same goal. Charityworks is geared to broadening your knowledge, thinking critically on issues being discussed. In addition to that, being at conferences is excellent for networking, meeting people working in a specific field, past trainees, professionals from industry – sometimes just hearing the stories is so inspirational!
It’s not going to be easy but it’s a great stepping stone and it will really help you to visualise the way the sector works. Make use of the opportunities available to you on the programme like mentors, or your peer coach and be open to new ideas!