The Careers Adviser

'Are my marketing skills useful to a charity? And how can my son get on a career path?'
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The Independent Online

Charity chance

I have worked in marketing for four years, but have become disillusioned with my job. I have thought about working for a charity and do have a particular area in mind, but am not sure how easy it is to move across into this sort of job from my current position.

Marketing is very important to any organisation in the not-for-profit sector. A charity must sell itself to donors and users of its service, as well as to new staff and volunteers. It's also important to build up a brand. The sort of marketing job available will depend on the type and size of organisation that you choose. Some of the bigger charities will have specific marketing jobs – as head or director of marketing, for example. Others will have jobs that have a different name – such as director of fundraising – but that job will still contain elements of marketing.

Some charities combine marketing and fundraising roles. Elaine Smethurst, executive director of Working For A Charity, says that you should do your own research on any charities that interest you. High-profile organisations will have information about jobs and organisational structures on their websites. Smethurst recommends volunteering and talking to people – you can get a long way just by phoning and asking for information, rather than asking directly for a job. "The sector is competitive, and you do need to know how it works," she says. "You can definitely gain from volunteering and working in situations that will give you professional insight and development."

If you need extra help with your research, or required details about the way the sector works, Working For A Charity (, which is part of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, runs short courses and has introduced an online course for charity career-changers, which is accredited by Roehampton University. It costs £445 to £695 and you could check the details. Even if you choose to study, though, volunteering will still be the key to helping you get the job that you want.

Swiss future

Our son stayed on in the sixth form, but did not want to go on to further study. He became a ski instructor, ran a chalet for a while, and later trained as a helicopter pilot, although he is qualified in the US only. He is now 42, married, living in Zermatt and worried about being stuck in a dead-end job. Is there an agency that could help?

Depending on his language skills, he might be able to exploit his interest in property by looking at how property management is handled in the area – can he act as an agent for people who own property locally, managing bookings,organising cleaning and repairs? If he has any spare capital, he might even be able to invest in his own properties, renting them out to tourists and organising bookings or guided walks and even offering his own skiing tuition.

You mention that with a young child he might not find study easy, but teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is still an option – though there will probably be more opportunities in the cities, and he would have to take a specialist course. TEFL jobs tend to be freelance initially and paid by the hour, but there is the possibility of a permanent contract and even a move into the management side of a language school. See www.prospects. (English as a foreign language teacher) for advice on this. EURES, the European job-mobility portal, has 11 advisers in Switzerland who can offer information – they also list vacancies on their website: Another useful source of information is also on the Graduate Prospects site ( which gives links to other sites.

Careers adviser: Liz Hagger, Graduate Prospects.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to