What was your first role? What were your aims and ambitions when you first started?
I always wanted to do programme work with Oxfam. However after university I went and taught English overseas for 3 years and through that I realised that I didn't want to live away from the UK permanently. So I came back to London and started working in a charity in an administration role. After for 1.5 years I was given the opportunity to cover my manager's role when she went on mat leave, which helped me gain some experience.
I also volunteered in an Oxfam shop which meant that when I came for an interview at Oxfam HQ although I was under qualified, I was able to bluff my way through using my enthusiasm and knowledge of the organisation. I was offered the role of Oxfam Unwrapped marketing officer in the fundraising team. I'm glad I had the confidence to take the job - it stretched me and I learned loads.
I had one more role after that before I got lucky and a new position was created on emergency fundraising. Doing a new role was a great opportunity to really make it my own. I stayed in this role for 18 months at which point I began to look at specifically what skills I lacked and what would help me progress. I realised team management was a big gap. So I took a secondment in the communications division which was not an obvious move for me, but which gave me the opportunity to manage a team. I also found that working in a different division was a huge help in expanding my understanding
of how Oxfam works. That was a great help when I moved back to fundraising and helped me get yet another secondment - I've done four in total now.
What skills have you developed - without technical experience?
Throughout my career journey I always thought of what else I needed to learn and what to do next.
I fell into Fundraising - and this feels right for me. I also realise now that I'm not an expert in anything, but a good generalist manager. Sometimes I have had to balance that in terms of my confidence, and inspiring confidence in others - how to lead people when they know more than you do about the topic!
In terms of career progression, I've found it helpful not to just jump into things, to think ahead of where I may want to be and trade off options. Sometimes a great role will come up but it's not the right time. Or other people will question why you're interested in a certain role. I've found trusting my instinct has worked best.
I have also found that the non-obvious, sideways moves have done the most to stretch me, broaden my skills and increase my knowledge of how the organisation works which is now a strength I'm proud of.