I recently had a conversation with a soon-to-graduate student who was struggling to visualize where she might pursue her career. When I mentioned the non-profit sector, she shook her head emphatically. I asked why, and she said that she didn't want to be doing voluntary work - she needed to earn a proper salary.
It struck me that when I was in my final year at university, I possibly would also have assumed that working for a charity meant working for a pittance, or for free.
I told my brothers career story. Now in his early thirties, he is Head of Fundraising at a major mental health charity. His skills and knowledge after more than 10 years in fund-raising allow the charity to generate the cash to reach more and more people struggling with mental illness. His job is target-driven, and he manages about a dozen people, with a concomitant level of stress and responsibility. For this he is paid a competitive salary. He also loves contributing to an organization with a mission and values that align closely with his own.
So, working for a charity does not mean working for free. In the UK a vibrant and diverse charity sector provides career paths of varying flavours. If you're into sustainable development, there's a charity that does that. You like art-house cinema? There's a charity that does that. Do you want to help rescue abused animals, yes, there's a charity that does that. And you don't have to be an expert in the field. You can work in one the many support functions, like fundraising, HR, marketing and communications.
Have a look at this report from Acevo that illustrates the range of salaries at various job levels in the charity sector and salaries by field in 2013.
So if the public sector doesn't do it for you, and the corporate world just makes you wonder why, then perhaps you should be considering the third sector.
Good places to search for third sector jobs are: