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Is charity work right for me?

Brianne Turk

Careers Commentator
People tend to glamorise working for a charity, but in reality it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So in a nutshell, here are the factors you need to consider when thinking about a future in charity work.

Charity workers crave meaningful work and are generally motivated by helping others, creating social change and working towards a better, more sustainable world. The sector typically suits those who place the value of their work over and above their pay packet. If you find yourself prioritising a mansion by the sea over working for a cause, you might be better suited elsewhere.

It’s not always easy to find paid charity work, so you need to be prepared to make sacrifices along the way. This could mean taking volunteer work to begin with, or starting out in the public sector and moving across to a charity once you’ve gained more experience. It’s also likely that you’ll have to network and do some research to find new opportunities, as roles aren’t always widely advertised. Those who are willing to get out there and promote themselves have the greatest chance of finding rewarding opportunities in this field.

One of the most enticing things about charity work is the chance to work for a cause that is important to you. This brings with it a sense of satisfaction and worthiness about the way in which you’re contributing to the world. On the downside, if you feel as though you’re not making progress towards the cause you’re fighting for, you can be left feeling extremely frustrated, hopeless or like you’ve failed. Some charities also deal with very confronting issues that may be hard to forget when the work day is over. With these points in mind, it’s important to weigh up whether you feel you have the emotional capacity deal with the high’s and low’s that come with the job.

And of course, don’t forget to consider charity work on a practical level. Do your skills, interests and needs align with charity work? If you need full-time work in Sydney, your skills lie in HR and you’re interested in working for a charity in Thailand that rescues street dogs, you might get a little stuck. But if you’ve also got some fundraising and marketing skills up your sleeve, you might just add enough value to carry out this charity position from your own home in Australia.

Look at all the skills you have on offer, and then consider how these can align with the industry. You can always upskill in other areas to boost your employability.

In summary

If you’re thinking about a career in charity work, consider the following questions:

  • Is it important for me to work for a cause that betters society/the world?
  • How important is it for me to feel passionate about my work?
  • Is earning a lot of money my first priority?
  • Am I willing to take unpaid work, short-term work or work in others sectors to reach long-term goals?
  • Do my strengths & skills fit well with charity roles? (You can read about 12 charity roles here)

And if you decide that charity work it is for you, we’ve put together a few questions to help you identify which causes or industry areas you’re passionate about, and what type of work might be best for you:

  • If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?
  • What do you find most unfair about your community/the world?
  • Do you want to provide help in your local community, country, or all around the world?
  • Are you interested in a generalist role where you use a range of skills across a range of disciplines/areas/causes, or a specialist role where you focus on one niche area?
  • Are you interested in obtaining a specific role or working for a specific cause? E.g. Will you work for any charity as long as you are in a lobbying role, or would you prefer to have any role as long as the charity rescues animals?
  • Do you want to work with people, animals, or the environment?
  • Small charity or big charity?
  • Are you looking for stable, predictable work or a role where you do something different every day?