Why a non-linear career path may be the best route forward
With so many fundraisers starting their careers in other sectors, CharityJob’s Stephanie Dotto explains why this route to fundraising can mean more skills learned along the way and a better-rounded CV.
Let’s face it, not everyone finds the perfect job the first time around. You probably haven’t always been a fundraiser. Maybe you started out in sales or customer service. Or maybe you worked as a teacher and realised your true calling ten or twenty years down the line. That’s okay – you’re not the only one.
These days, it’s more common than ever for employees to jump between roles, industries and even sectors before landing that dream job. The era of joining a company and working your way up their internal ladder is long gone. Instead, more and more people are opting for less traditional (and less linear) career paths.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of a non-linear career path can have in the fundraising sector.
What is a non-linear career path?
You’ve heard it said again and again, but the job market is changing. Platforms like LinkedIn allow us to be constantly connected with new opportunities. And with millennials making up 75% of the workforce by 2025, we’re finding that more people are leaning towards socially responsible employers and jobs that influence the causes they care about.
Consider how many people spend years stuck in jobs that make them unhappy, only to drop it all to pursue something more meaningful in the charity sector. It may have been a sidestep in terms of their career, but definitely it’s not a step backwards.
It’s a common myth that career paths need to constantly move in one direction. A non-linear career path doesn’t follow a traditional model of advancement. You may have to try out a few positions before you find the right fit, but that doesn’t mean you’re not advancing. It just means you’re collecting skills and experiences from a variety of environments that make you the valuable and knowledgeable employee you are today.
But what does that mean for a career in fundraising?
According to a recent report published by the NCVO, half of the organisations in the voluntary sector reported that missing skills in the workforce led to an increased workload for staff. That means they need to attract more people with skills gained from outside the sector or skills gained through volunteering, as not every charity has the resources to train internally.
So coming from a non-fundraising background may actually be more advantageous than you think. It allows you to bring a fresh perspective, new ideas and the oh-so-valuable technical and practical skills that these organisations may have been lacking (IT, data analysis, numerical skills, specialist skills).
But this also rings true for people with fundraising experience, because different sized charities have different resources when it comes to training and development. Maybe you worked for a large charity and gained a great deal of digital savvy on the job. Taking those skills to another fundraising role at the same level doesn’t mean your career path has plateaued – rather you’re embracing a new challenge, especially if you’re moving to a charity that you think is more aligned with your interests and beliefs.
The benefits of a non-linear career path
In today’s working world, there’s less of a stigma around job hopping. In fact, many employers expect it. Employees don’t want to get stuck in the same role for ever—they want to be challenged, to gain new skills. And this is just as true for the fundraising profession as it is for the for-profit world. With more fundraising jobs than fundraisers (at roughly 3 registered fundraisers to every 10 fundraising jobs posted on CharityJob), it’s not uncommon for fundraisers to change jobs every few years.
When you’re faced with limited options for advancement and development, side stepping between jobs gives you more opportunities to develop transferrable skills and diversify your network. It also means that you’re shaping your own career. Maybe your current organisation doesn’t give you any room to grow. By moving to another fundraising position, you’ve suddenly opened up new opportunities for advancement in your career.
Are you ready to take that next step?
The right fundraising job isn’t one that just builds on your strengths; it marries your responsibilities to your interests and inspires you to always be learning and growing. It’s a role you’re excited to tackle every day, even if some days are more challenging than others. No two paths will ever be the same, you just have to find the right direction for you.
Think you’re ready to embrace a non-linear career and see what other opportunities are out there? Find out what fundraising roles are available on the CharityJob page.
Stephanie Dotto is Content and SEO Lead at CharityJob.