Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Angels Who Changed My Life

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Angels Who Changed My Life

Article excerpt


Moving from the ruthless world of commerce into the voluntary sector is not the simple path many expect. Sally O'Reilly discovers a group that helps to ease the journey

WHEN Duncan Milroy was made redundant at the age of 50, he decided it was time to do his bit for others less fortunate than himself. Little did he know how unwelcome his offer of assistance would prove to be.

As an accountant in the private sector, he had spent more than 20 years helping to maximise profits. Now, he wanted to lend his considerable skills to a more deserving organisation, and he assumed charities would be falling over each other to secure his services.

He soon found he was mistaken.

Rejection followed rejection.

"I thought my skills would speak for themselves - but I didn't realise what kind of cultures or issues I would meet, and my applications were getting nowhere," he says.

Milroy did not know it at the time, but he was facing a problem encountered by more and more people wishing to make the move from private business to the voluntary sector. Charity work has become increasingly sophisticated - and the skills required can be very different to those found elsewhere.

There may also be some resentment among charity workers that private-sector highfliers believe they can come in and show them how to run things.

Yet there is undoubtedly a growing need among people to do something worthwhile just as James Stewart's life was transformed when he put aside his self-absorption in It's A Wonderful Life.

Stewart was shown the way forward by an angel. Aid was at hand for Duncan Milroy in the shape of PrimeTimers, which helps people transfer to the voluntary sector.

Taking its advice and assistance, he worked for no pay on projects with several charities, including Barnardo's and the Save the Children Fund.

Prime-Timers also advised him on how to promote his skills to potential employers.

"Last Christmas I started applying again - and this time, instead of getting a stream of rejections, I was suddenly getting an interview for every application I made," he says.

Now he is working as director of corporate services at Norwood, a charity that works with children and young people with learning disabilities. "I'm only in my second week, but I am very happy here and very confident that the work is going to be satisfying and challenging."

Set up last year and run by only three people, PrimeTimers provides everything from career advice to work placements with voluntary organisations and operates as part of Community Action Network, an organisation of 700 charities and not-for-profit groups, many of which are keen to use people with business know-how.

The staff of PrimeTimers have all made the transition from the private to the voluntary sector. …

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