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It’s about the “what”, not the “who”! by guest blogger Christopher Samuels, Resourcing Manager, CAFOD

Christopher Samuels, Resourcing Manager at CAFOD shares his story on working in HR in the NGO sector.

Christopher Samuels

I never wanted to be a recruiter. The job chose me!

That would probably be the opening line to my (highly unsuccessful and very poor selling) autobiography. If any publisher was deluded enough to put a copy into print!  The statement though does have some grain of truth to it, but I’ll reflect on that more later.

Firstly, let me set the scene. I was never really aware of the NGO sector as it exists today. Like others, through osmosis I had heard of Save the Children, Christian Aid, OXFAM, CAFOD et al. What I hadn’t realised was the fact that these organisations are large,  and rightfully so. They manage the gathering and distribution of millions of pounds every year which go towards improving the lives that many of us (and many of the staff working in the organisation themselves) would never meet. An accomplishment of this magnitude necessitates and demands a supporting structure both large and worthy enough to facilitate this good work. Small scale support just doesn’t achieve it.

But why is this relevant?  

Well, when I was at university studying sound engineering (I had to spend my student loan somehow), a career within the not for profit or NGO sector was not high on the list. Of course not I hear you cry;  you can’t feed the hungry with mixing desks and sound effects machines.

Too true. But the career path I took after I left the music industry, did lead me into working in this privileged community. You see, like a lot of people who happen to work in recruitment, I fell into it. There was no plan, no real conscious thought behind broadening my skill set, or expanding my career portfolio. My bank account was empty and it needed filling. Simple as that!

That was the Spring of 2006, and since then I’ve done everything you could possibly want to do (and many you probably wouldn’t) within the boundaries of recruitment – public sector, private sector, consultancy, recruitment advertising and internal recruitment. Apart from a full CV, what has that given me? Well, it has allowed me to develop a strong understanding of recruitment processes, best practice, employment law knowledge and the ever essential skill of how to hold my own in an interview and avoid looking like a candidate from The Apprentice!

As a result I have found myself reaching the inevitable, but not entirely unpleasant, conclusion that I am forging a career in recruitment/HR. A very far cry from mixing desks and late night celebrity parties!

So, the answer to the question I’m sure you are thinking is this; I have found myself working at CAFOD because of the job. Not because of what they do.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive supporter of what we, and our peers, do for those less fortunate than us around the world. But the fact that my job just happens to be with CAFOD is the icing on the cake. And now I’m in this sector, I can’t see myself leaving.

No, I’m doing this job because of the job, and less so because of who it is that pays my salary.

I’m also not alone. Many others that I speak to at CAFOD have arrived here bringing their expertise from a previous life with them. Specialists and practitioners in analytics, finance, project management, web design, education, marketing, PR, HR, corporate governance, events management, IT and more. All of these skills and many, many more are needed in even a medium sized charity or INGO. I go back to the comment I made earlier about a lot of the organisations in this sector being large entities. Their hierarchy and corporate structure (plus the need to be cost effective with the money they have so there tends to be a reluctance to outsource some of the roles that other private organisations would do such as web design and HR), means that there is a need to hire staff skilled in many different areas.

So how does this relate to my (not) #1 best selling autobiography?

Well, I started in recruitment with no clear goal or desire in particular to work where I am today. I developed a skill, knowledge, specialism and am now (hopefully) putting that to good use in the not for profit sector.

So my key message is simply this; hone your skills in a particular field in another sector and then move into the NGO field. We value demonstrable experience and knowledge in a specialist field. Some may argue this more so than we value a desire to want to work in an NGO. Perfect your skills then come knocking on our doors. We will do our best to welcome you with open arms.

This blog is brought to you by the I Am Group.  We work with charities to provide networking and learning events and help charities and not-for-profit organisations recruit the best staff.  You can find out more about us at www.iamenterprises.co.uk and to join our monthly networking events visit www.monthlycharitynetworking.eventbrite.co.uk.  You can find out more about CAFOD at www.cafod.org.uk.

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