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Career Advice

06 Feb 15

Applying for a non-profit job? 5 phrases to avoid at all costs

We see hundreds of applications for not for profit jobs every day, so we know pretty well what a great application looks like. Yet, we also keep seeing the same not-so-great phrases that keep creeping into CVs and cover letters. And, we reckon, using any of these statements could get you rejected from your dream charity job.

Charity and non-profit jobs - career advice

Here are our top 5 sentences to avoid at all costs:

1. ‘I want to have a real impact in the world’
Surely, a greater sense of purpose is a common motivation for a charity career. But the truth is that a charity job is also hard work. So, especially if you’re in the beginning of your career, it’s the small successes that really count. There is nothing wrong with ambition but saying that you want to have a real impact in the world sounds like you have unrealistic expectations.

2. ‘I want to give something back’
Doing things ‘for’ people doesn’t work because it’s only a temporary solution. To make a real impact you have to work with people, listen to them, and find out how they want to engage with you and the charity you work for. A note of thanks to Alex Swallow for pointing this out in his recent article! So, stating that you want to ‘give something back’ makes it sound like you plan to bestow gifts from on high to some grateful, needy beneficiaries.

3. ‘I left my previous role due to personal reasons’
It’s a fact that we all have to manage our personal and professional lives alongside each other. Saying you left a job for personal reasons gives off the impression that you have trouble managing your time, or that you preferred your party animal lifestyle over a job with responsibility. If you actually had a valid reason to leave your job, such as having a baby, it’s better to be more specific.

4. ‘I’m interested in finding home based, flexible work with short hours’
I tend to advise people to tailor their applications around what they can do for the employer – not what the employer can do for them. Bluntly stating that short hours are the main factor in your job search makes it obvious that you haven’t thought about what value you can add. Or that you think a career in the charity sector is the easy option, which it clearly isn’t.

5. ‘In my free time I enjoy socialising, watching movies and ordering Chinese takeaway’
I cannot really think of anyone who dislikes doing any these things. Just think for a second what you would do if you were looking to hire someone – especially if your new hire was to work with you every day, you’d surely prefer someone with personality. I’m sure that you have some interests that make you unique, so why not mention them? Unless it’s not something completely insane, of course. I will leave that one to your own judgement…