My Journey to the Third Sector

I started out in my working career for an Insurance Broker. It wasn’t quite the exciting career I’d aspired to during my studies of Film. I always thought of it just being a ‘temporary thing’ whilst I figured out what I really wanted to do. I was there for over five years!! I recall being slightly embarrassed when people asked what I did for a living. It had always been my dream to work for a charity, but back then it was virtually impossible to get into third sector without volunteering or knowing somebody that could open some doors. Once I began earning my own money, the prospect of volunteering went straight out of the window. Whilst the insurance sector was a little dull, the company I worked for had a supportive culture with lots of progression opportunities. I was always learning, and this first role helped identify where my natural skills sat, whilst allowing me to build new ones too.

I went on to work within sales in the insurance sector for over ten years. By then, I sold Private Health Care Insurance to companies as part of their employee benefits packages and for a long time I absolutely loved it. I had a perfect mix of new business and account management and, again, was lucky enough to work for a great company with a real family culture, along with new products always coming out which kept my role varied and new. After seven years the business restructured and sold off the Private Health Care book of business and this changed my role massively. It meant I lost a lot of the key accounts I’d always managed, and the earning potential changed. It made me question what I wanted to do moving forward. I was eventually faced with either taking a new role within the business or taking a voluntary redundancy. With absolutely no hesitation, I took what I saw as an opportunity to do something new and opted for the voluntary redundancy. I just had no idea what this ‘new’ thing would be!

After taking a career break, and reflecting, I still wasn’t sure of what my next steps were going to look like. I felt like I wanted to do something more meaningful. I went through a few months of feeling completely lost and even started to wonder where my strengths sat. I registered with a lot of recruitment agencies and was constantly offered roles within recruitment, which at the time didn’t tick my meaningful box. I knew that I loved building relationships and that I was successful within business development and hitting targets, but none of that felt enough anymore.

My role within third sector kind of just happened. I started applying for roles, but rather frustratingly, the only roles I was hearing back from were from the insurance sector. I was going to these interviews and coming away feeling really flat. I ended up accepting a role with a national brokerage and whilst the role sounded interesting, it wasn’t exciting me. I was just about to submit my signed contract and then got a call to advise that recruitment had been temporarily frozen within the business whilst they restructured and appointed a new CEO. This meant I wouldn’t be able to start for a few months. On the very same day, I got a call from a recruitment agency asking whether I would like to take a 3-month contract with a local national charity to assist in their fundraising team. I went in to meet the Fundraising Director and came away with the excitement I had been looking for.

Within a week of working at the charity I had built the team their very first pipeline report and recognised just how much potential this charity had. There were no month-long inductions, company cars, or fancy starter packs I’d been so spoilt with in private sector. In fact, I didn’t even have any data to work with. It was literally just me hitting the ground running and getting to work. I absolutely loved it! For the first time in my life, the sense of achievement wasn’t a big bonus, but knowing that I was making a difference in people’s lives. Everything about third sector was different but in particular the culture and the pace of work. Working collaboratively across the business made my role so varied. I adapted overnight. I was very quickly offered a permanent role which was built for me and around my skill set and I went on to set up a corporate partnership programme. I became responsible for managing high profile relationships, including our Royal patron, as well leading on campaigns and events across the business. I was promoted to heading up the fundraising team and building infrastructure across all of the revenue streams and then the pandemic arrived, which resulted in our charity being taken over. At the time it felt like the worst thing ever but it lead me to my current role. I will definitely go back to third sector one day but for now, I couldn’t be happier.

If you’re considering a change of sectors. Perhaps your story mirrors mine and you’re thinking about making a change after a redundancy. You might identify with my need to do something more meaningful after years within the private sector. I can assure you; you will have transferrable skills that will support you in a completely new career within the third sector. I would love the opportunity to speak with you and explore where you might be best suited.

I now work for Merrifield Consultants, the Not-For-Profit Recruitment Agency, as a Recruitment Consultant, specialising in fundraising. It feels like all of my experience within third sector is being put to great use. Having worked across most revenue streams previously, it means when dealing with my clients I have a really good understanding of their roles and the type of person they need. My experience also allows me to confidently bring the role to life when speaking with candidates. I care deeply about the culture of a charity and placing my candidates into environments they will fit with, so I take pride in getting to know my candidates and what they really want to see from their next steps. For me, I now have the perfect mix of private and third sector and feel very lucky to be part of the Merrifield Consultant family.

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