Joining the VCSE sector's ranks for the first time

Nathan Choat joined us last week as our new Communications and Events Support Assistant, but he had come across VONNE and its work before, most recently at a university careers event that a member of the team took part in as a panellist, representing VONNE and the VCSE community. 

In this post, Nathan explains what he learned about the sector, and how the event helped him get his start.

As one of VONNE’s newest recruits, it wasn’t long ago that I was researching my next steps after university. Between exams, essays and other student pastimes (some less studious than others), I quickly decided a career in the VCSE sector would be a good fit for me; after all, I was heavily involved in volunteering at university, and wanted to continue sharing my passion for community action beyond graduation day. Nevertheless, I still had little sense of what working for a charity would actually be like, or how to enter the sector. When I saw Durham University was hosting a careers panel in June all about the VCSE sector, I was quick to sign up, hoping it would help provide answers to some of my questions.

In my experience, getting into the VCSE sector can seem like a challenge from the outside. However, the panel, which consisted of representatives from four charities, including Jule from VONNE, was fantastic at demystifying the process. Panellists shared their wisdom on a range of topics, from job applications to interview preparation.

From my perspective, however, the most valuable part of the event was its insistence that the VCSE sector is not a homogenous group; on the contrary, it is complex, adaptable and evolving.

  • Complex: The guest panellists came from a wide range of charities, both national and local, big and small. They also worked in a variety of roles, from communications to research, and were keen to share their experiences. Their stories highlighted the exciting complexity behind the ‘VCSE’ label.
  • Adaptable: The pandemic has transformed everyone’s lives, and the VCSE sector has certainly not been immune to this. However, the panel was quick to point out the resilience of charities, and the changes many have made to meet the challenges of the last 12 months. Although disruptive, Covid-19 has inspired the VCSE sector to pursue its goals with renewed conviction.
  • Evolving: The VCSE sector can’t afford to rest on its laurels, and it can’t be accused of doing so! The event highlighted a realignment within the sector during the pandemic, as issues such as social security and digital exclusion gained prominence. The guests also spoke about the things the sector still needs to improve on going forward, including diversity and inclusion.

My understanding of the VCSE sector took on an extra dimension during the panel and made me more excited than ever to get involved in a line of work that’s interesting, challenging and rewarding all at once. If anything, I'm a testament to the event’s success; only one month later, I’m already working for VONNE!