Polly Symondson Recruitment | Career advice from you to you
Polly Symondson Recruitment, PSR, Specialist Regional Recruitment for the Charity Sector, Cheltenham, UK
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Career advice from you to you

In 2001 I secured my first fundraising job with the National Film and Television School as the Marketing and Events Fundraiser.  From day one, I was put in charge of organising an auction of film and television memorabilia at Christie’s, the proceeds of which would go to the schools scholarships fund.

Looking very young and fairly terrified at the NFTS film and TV auction

Recently, I had been thinking what advice I would have given myself at the time.  It probably would have been something as simple as ‘have faith in yourself.’ If I’d had more faith in myself perhaps I would have relaxed a little and enjoyed what was at times one of the coolest jobs imaginable! Persuading film and tv’s finest to part with various items and then running round the country picking these precious items up, followed by a very glitzy event at Christie’s – what’s not to love?  For me starting out as a fundraiser and event organiser I was desperate to prove myself and was so terrified of failing I never stood back and enjoyed the moment. I would also have told myself to stop and spend some time evaluating what went well and what could be improved on instead of just ploughing on to meet the next fundraising target – something I could still learn from today!

So I posted the same question to my lovely Linkedin connections and as always fundraisers were quick to generously share their insights.

Some of those who shared their thoughts focused around having passion for a cause and how to maintain it:

“Work for a charity that you have a passion for. Makes every day going to work have a meaning. I do think it’s good to move on every 5-7 years approx in charity sector as it keeps your desire to make a difference, passion and enthusiasm alight!”

“Ideally select a charity that you’re passionate about. You’ll enjoy it so much more and will be more motivated to make a difference. As this passion will shine through all your work and show when you speak to people. Inspiring them to help you and the charity. But be careful choosing a charity too close to your heart and ending up working tirelessly – don’t let it take over. Work life balance. Oh and also don’t spend too long in one charity – you’ll be part of the furniture. Don’t be afraid to leave and move around to experience different charities – as you’ll learn something new at each and work your way up the ladder quicker.”

“Seek out and be loyal to a cause that’s a good fit for you: one that suits your personality, your values, your beliefs, your style of working. And learn to spot what and who isn’t a good fit for you.”

A real theme throughout the replies focused on learning and mentoring:

“Never stop learning but remember to keep it simple. Your knowledge will give you confidence and authority you don’t need to show off but it helps to have answers at the ready..”

“Find a mentor and learn as much as you can.  Network as much as possible internally with fundraising colleagues and externally – you never know who you might meet.”

“Have your own plan. Find an external mentor. Never stop learning”

Like many of the people who responded I never thought to seek out a mentor when I was starting out in fundraising, but I see now how valuable this would have been. So, a lesson for today, howabout seeking out a fundraiser who is just starting out on their career and seeing if you can support them as a mentor? Just like us when we were starting out they might not have thought to ask yet…..