With the security of a ‘job for life’ outmoded in today’s world of work, to pursue a fulfilling career you need to be someone that knows about, attracts and secures interesting opportunities. This allows you to piece together exciting and challenging pieces of work into a clear, strong narrative (or what we might have once called your 'career path'.)

Worthwhile graduates — all work in small charities and social enterprises

Even early in your career, there are some ways you can develop yourself as an opportunity magnet. Stretching roles, high quality training, supportive management, mentoring and a wide professional network are all vital for discovering and landing new opportunities.

At Worthwhile, we specifically help young people starting out in their careers in the social impact sector to find and build roles at small organisations. This is because we think small organisations have the potential to offer that ‘stretch’ from an early stage in your career.

By their very nature, small organisations offer a breadth of learning and insight. You’re likely to have a relatively broad role encompassing a diversity of projects. This will allow you to experiment with different organisational functions and ways of working, learn what you’re good at, and develop a wide range of skills and knowledge. It’s also less likely that you’ll be working in a specialist department; instead you’ll be working closely with staff from across the organisation. This will help you to develop a big picture view of how an organisation works or how to tackle a specific social issue from different angles.

Again, because there are fewer people and (likely) a flatter management structure, you’re going to have the opportunity for contact with senior members of staff and perhaps even your governing board. This is a brilliant opportunity to learn from experiences and insights of people further along in their career and working at a different ‘level’ of the organisation from you and your peers. It’s also an opportunity to gain more of that big picture understanding of how organisations tick and the context that your organisation is operating in.

Finally, small organisations necessarily confer ownership and responsibility on junior staff. There simply isn’t the resource and staffing to have lots of levels of management! This offers you the chance to own your work, lead projects and shape areas of your organisation. You might even end up being the expert in a particular area. Responsibility and expertise has to be taken up by everyone, rather than being concentrated in layers of management.

Of course, it’s not all upsides. Small organisations come with their own challenges. Pay can be lower than larger organisations, there’s often less role security and fewer perks, even in the social impact space. Also if you already know what you want to do and you are keen to specialise ,  larger organisations might be the place to do that (although a niche, small organisation could also be an option).

If you’re interested in making your first steps in a career in social impact, find out more about how Worthwhile can help you to do that.


This blog was adapted from one originally published at worthwhile.org.uk