Trying to break into the charity sector as a young working-class woman was deemed impossible for myself at one point in time. Coming from a background where I had been supported by charities and understood the great impact they have on people, I knew that it was the career I wanted. However, the journey from being supported by a charity to working for one was not easy.
Roles that all required degrees and A-levels are ultimately geared towards recruiting middle-class people. Although I faced many barriers – from the lack of experience, to not having a university degree, which is so sought after within the sector – I hoped that volunteering for various organisations and gaining new skills would one day equip me to land an interview for a dream job in the charity sector. However after 2 years of applying for roles within the sector, I became less hopeful.
During the Covid-19 pandemic the government announced the news of the Kickstart scheme, geared at helping young people gain employment. After hearing this news, I contacted my local Jobcentre and was assigned a work coach. I explained to my work coach my frustrations with not being able to even get past the application stage to start a career in the charity sector, and the worries I had that I would always be tied down to a minimum wage job within the retail sector – unable to fulfil my passion of social justice, politics, feminism and working with communities.
Having a work coach was a great tool in helping me utilise skills I already had and transferring them. My work coach Emma reminded me why a working-class woman like me with real-life experience and passion for raising awareness of underheard voices would be an asset to the sector and helped me regain confidence in my ability.
In August 2021 I finally got my first role within the charity sector through the Kickstart scheme, joining the Jo Cox Foundation as a Communications Assistant. I was anxious at first about whether someone like me would fit into the role but with great support from the team I found that I finally was able to show off my ability and bring something unique to the role. As part of the Kickstart scheme I received training and 1-1 support in developing my career. 7 months later I was promoted to Digital Communications Officer with a permanent contract, and I finally felt like I found where I was meant to be.
It was really important for me to give back and share this journey with other young people from similar backgrounds to myself. Holding a stall at my local primary school’s Year 6 Career Day confirmed to me that, although you may be living in an area of poverty and your chances of attending university are slimmer than some of your peers, never stop trying to find alternative routes to get to your dream job. Finding my dream job through the Kickstart scheme confirmed to me that the charity sector needs to do better at realising how transferable skills and real-life experience can be just as valuable as a degree.
As a woman from a working-class background, Jo Cox herself studied and worked in environments where she may have felt like an outsider, but she overcame these obstacles and inspired so many of us in the process.
– Kira Charlton