Opinion: Third Voice - Charity careerists should try the business world

Brent Thomas is the founder and director of PrimeTimers, a social enterprise that works to find business solutions for the third sector.

A note to all recruiters and managers: it's values and attitudes that count when recruiting, not sector experience. So dismiss the stereotypes, pull down the silos and welcome those trans-sectoral travellers when they come knocking on your door.

For the past four years, I have worked with people who want to move from the private sector to the voluntary sector. During this time, I have become aware of the stereotypes that exist in both sectors, and the large gap between perception and reality - both of which are barriers obstructing the flow of talent and learning across sectors.

One misperception is about why people want to make these cross-sector career transitions. In our experience, the most common motives for business people wanting to work in charities are getting a buzz from learning something new, applying their skills in new and testing environments and working within a new organisational ethos. Many are disillusioned with the relentless focus on re-engineering and a culture that is overly focused on creating wealth for others. They acknowledge that change is inevitable, so why not embrace it?

We have learned that, although skills are transferable, attitudes and values are not. Prior experience of a sector is overrated by recruiters - the skills are often the same, and it's just the terminology that's different. One sector is not better than the other - they are all different and there is something to be learned from each of them. Diverse teams make better, more informed business decisions. It helps if candidates have worked out what real value you have to offer and how to present it without spin or exaggeration. The greater the diversity of our experiences, the better equipped we will be for future change - and embracing transition will help you learn new skills that will equip you better for all of life's changes.

There are plenty of examples of business people who have made the transition into the third sector, but far too few of those who have gone the other way. Charity sector careerists are missing out on the benefits of transitions.

One of the reasons for this is to do with the (mis)perceptions about businesses that exist in charities, but how many people have actually tried to make the move? We would like to champion the movement of more career transitions.

Will you come forward and accept the challenge?

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