Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When Inside Knowledge Helps; JUST THE JOB

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When Inside Knowledge Helps; JUST THE JOB

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

Sarah Richardson discovers that being a PA can give you a head start when it comes to working for a charity

PLUM roles in high-profile charities are like gold dust and breaking into the sector can be as competitive as the media, with aspiring charity workers working for little or no pay for prolonged periods before a suitable opportunity arises. By first working as a PA, you are offering the organisation much-valued skills in return for a foot in the door.

Charlotte Goodman, 27, is head of marketing at Action for Blind People, the UK's third-largest visual impairment charity. A geography graduate, Goodman always knew she wanted to work in the voluntary sector: she was even head of the charities committee at school. "But I wasn't sure what role I wanted to perform," she admits. "I temped for 18 months in the charity sector, working in publications, marketing and fundraising departments so I built up a skills base and developed a real breadth of experience."

At the same time, Goodman took an MSc in social policy at Birkbeck College while continuing to do voluntary work: in the past she has worked at a homeless shelter and led Mencap holidays, for example. So when she saw an advert for the role of PA to the marketing director at the NSPCC, she felt well qualified. "I was determined to work for the organisation and was very honest when I went for interview," she recalls. "They could see from my CV that I had a lot of relevant experience and I explained that I saw the job as a way in. I promised I would be a totally committed PA and deliver what was asked of me but hoped I would be given more responsibility to expand my role."

Goodman was promoted after a year to marketing officer and worked on the Full Stop campaign, before leaving after two-and-a-half years to go to Action for Blind People.

"It offered the culture I was looking for and a wider remit," she says.

"There are people who think charities employ people who can't cut it in the real world, but there's so much talent in the sector," she says. "You need to have a real passion and be very creative in the way you promote yourself, often with modest budgets. …

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