My Story So Far: Brian Dow on an epiphany that led to a career change

The director of external affairs at the mental health charity Rethink moved into the sector from a career in journalism

Brian Dow
Brian Dow

I've had a career in two parts – journalism, then the voluntary sector.

In some ways journalism was a good preparation because it teaches you to get to the heart of the matter quickly and work to deadlines, which is valuable in campaigning work.

I started in commercial radio in Scotland, then moved to London to freelance and ended up working as a reporter and in production at BBC Television. I loved it, but noticed I did my best work when I really cared about the topic. When I wasn't that interested, I'd coast.

Knowing that my best work comes when I'm passionate about what I'm doing influenced my career change. Shortly after the birth of my first child I had an epiphany. A friend suggested I apply for a job at a small human rights charity and it just felt like the right move. There wasn't much of a campaigns function there, so I helped to build it. It was challenging, but satisfying.

I then went to Action for ME, working with the chief executive to change public perception of ME, which in those days some people still called "yuppie flu". Since then I've had campaigning and PR roles at some great charities: Jamie Oliver's School Food Trust, Shelter and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

I've been lucky to work for charities in areas where public perceptions were changing, and to be part of shaping that change. That is the case in at Rethink, where I'm excited about the potential for greater collaboration among mental health charities in raising public awareness.

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