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How to get the experience needed to apply for senior posts?

(15 Posts)
SeaMedows Sun 23-Nov-14 18:35:06

Long time poster and lurker here, name changed in case this outs me.

I'm 39, and thinking about where I want my career to go next. I've been working in the not-for-profit sectors for almost my whole career, and I want to be in a directorial role of a charity or similar not-for-profit organisation in the medium term. However, I'm struggling to see how to get the experience that I need to make that step up.

I need to gain experience of financial management, organisational strategy and operational management. The problem is that my current organisation is pretty small (5 people) although we are hosted within a large (several 1000) organisation. There just isn't a great deal of additional strategy, management and finances that I can do within our organisation - although I am asking about doing more on the finance side of things.

I'm thinking about doing an MBA in order to develop these skills - does anyone have any thoughts or experiences of this, or suggestions as to what else I can do?

Your thoughts and experiences are very much appreciated!

Unescorted Sun 23-Nov-14 18:40:07

Mentor from another organisation
Secondment to one of the other group organisations

SeaMedows Sun 23-Nov-14 18:52:49

Thank you! They're all things that I've been thinking about, so that reassures me that I'm on the right lines, if I can just sort them out.

I've got an afternoon arranged to spend with a senior finance person, and am having a phone chat sometime this week with someone who I hope will act as a bit of a mentor.

I've also talked to an ex-colleague about my ambitions (in the pub), but might drop her a mail and ask to meet up properly and go through things in more detail.

I've been wondering about arranging a secondment, but the problem I can see is that it would leave my organisation without someone in my role, and there isn't someone obvious to step up at this point. So I've been thinking about asking to spend a week shadowing people in the broader organisation, and taking it as holiday.

TywysogesGymraeg Sun 23-Nov-14 18:54:50

Get involved in some of these activities in a voluntary capacity. Charities will often train you on the job if you're prepared to offer your time for free.

SeaMedows Sun 23-Nov-14 19:43:32

Thanks - that's a good idea, and one that (oddly enough) I hadn't thought of.

How would I be best off 'selling' myself, do you think? i.e. I have a certain amount of experience, want to learn more, can I act as assistant to someone in order to gain more experience? As someone that works in the sector, I'm very aware of the cost of having volunteers!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Sun 23-Nov-14 22:10:13

I'd think about:

- being a trustee, it will help you gain strategic experience, plus it will also give you an insight into the workings of another org and how a board works. Which will help you when you are on the 'other side' if you don't already get involved in board meetings now.

- I would volunteer for anything internally that ticks any of the skills you want to develop or create opportunities.

- Network. The charity sector (like most sectors) is very connected. Can you develop a network of contacts in the sort of charities you can move to? Are there local networking dos near you?

- Speak to a recruiter - what is missing from your CV? They might have a different view from you...

I think an MBA does add to your CV but I think experience is the key esp in the charity sector. I used to work in it btw.


TywysogesGymraeg Sun 23-Nov-14 22:51:23

Being a school governor should give you some great business experience. Look for a secondary school, and try to get on the finance and planning committee.

Slowdownsally Sun 23-Nov-14 22:59:17

I'm doing some chartered management institute training ATM with an eu sponsored grant. It's exceedingly useful and there are mentors on tap throughout.

You could look to see if any of their programmes are in your area - usually through county development organisations ( the ones that replaced the RDAs)

SeaMedows Tue 25-Nov-14 13:18:26

Thanks very much - that's extremely helpful.

I'll start getting into action with those suggestions, and will let you know how I get on.

SeaMedows Tue 25-Nov-14 13:28:53

MrsMargoLedbetter - would you suggest that there are some roles as a trustee that might be more beneficial to my CV than others? Should I be looking for e.g. a well established organisation or a new organisation?

There's a local organisation whose work I know about slightly and value, and who I see are looking for trustees. It looks well organised, with a clear mission and strategy, and which conducted an internal review in the not too distant past. It has a clear financial plan which (to me) looks sensible, and it obviously has enough size and responsibilities that there would be scope to learn about broader financial opportunities than I see in my current role.

Is there anything that I should check out before I contact them?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 25-Nov-14 17:12:59

Sea I think that charity sounds good. Organised and not too small.

Start ups and disorganised orgs are likely to need a lot of time and support. You might find yourself doing lots of 'doing' which won't meet your need of being strategic etc.

I think trusteeships are like jobs in that you are unlikely to secure a role in a large organisation (eg the Samartians used to do a big trusteeship recruitment day as interest was so high!) if you have never been one before....So a smaller one that is a good eg of governance sounds great.

It is worth thinking about your experience, could being a trustee help you move into a new and different area. So if you have always worked in the children and young people area but want to work in international development etc then that could help you pin point the right sort of charity to be a trustee of. Or it could help make your experience more 'rounded'.

Find yourself a mentor too. I am guessing that there is more you can make of what you do/have done. It would be good to spend some time outside of work thinking about the bigger picture. With a previous mentor I met them at a do and emailed them after to ask about being my mentor. She was great.

Some of it, is how you spin it. Talking to somebody externally can help you realise how marketable you actually are.

Try to network with sector leaders. Look at Acevo, Knowledge Peers, NCVO etc if you don't already. That old saying about dressing like the boss etc!

That help?

Quokka12 Tue 25-Nov-14 17:19:05

Have a look at this website if you start with the unpaid/ expenses you will swiftly have financial/ strategic management. Lots of places looking to increase representation at board level and shouldn't be difficult assuming you target your experience well to move from local to national boards and then leverage that in a senior application.

cheerup Tue 25-Nov-14 17:59:29

I'm in a similar position and have recently been appointed as a trustee of a charitable trust launching in April 2014. First board meeting this week and I can't wait to get started. I so need a new challenge and to feel like my career could go somewhere again.

cheerup Tue 25-Nov-14 18:00:01

2015 even!

SeaMedows Tue 25-Nov-14 18:45:24

Thanks very much, everyone - this is incredibly helpful advice.

I've sent off an email of enquiry to the organisation, expressing my interest in becoming a trustee and outlining my experience - making sure I didn't undersell myself!

I've also taken a quick look at the WomenOnBoards website and will study that seriously tonight.

Your support and e-mentorship is very much appreciated!

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