“Many people think the charity sector is not competitive. But guess what? You’re wrong. To get a job in a charity, you need to know your skills like the palms of your hands, and you need to know how those skills can have an impact.”

This interview is part of IPF Careers, which has been designed to offer young people advice on breaking into the media, development and charity sectors.

Having noticed that there is a gap in peer-to-peer career advice and mentorship, we launched this Spotlight On… series. Here, the IPF spotlights young people in the early years of their careers in journalism, charities, and development-related fields with the aim of having them provide first-hand, relevant and genuinely useful information for young people looking to break into similar industries.

In this edition, we spotlight Catarina Demony, a young woman who has previously worked as a Communications Assistant at a disability rights charity.

Catarina Demony, 23, former Communications Assistant and IPF’s Managing Editor

Can you tell us about your role at the IPF

If I’m not mistaken, I wrote my first ever article for the IPF in 2014, back when I was studying journalism at Kingston University in London, United Kingdom. As a young student, the IPF gave me a platform to write about issues that truly mattered to me. I wrote about female genital mutilation in Somalia, refugee detention centres in Australia and many other human rights related topics.

After a few years, I was given the opportunity to become IPF‘s Social Media Editor. My job was to manage IPF‘s social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. I posted and scheduled relevant articles, and helped IPF‘s Editor-in-Chief to run social media campaigns. Being a Social Media Editor was a rewarding experience but I was ready to take on a new challenge.

Last year, our Editor-in-Chief Priyanka invited me to become IPF‘s Managing Editor. I was over the moon.

There’s no better feeling than helping young journalists to find remarkable and inspiring stories to write about.

IPF has become my second family and I encourage everyone to get involved.

When I wrote my first article back in 2014, I had no idea that one day I would be helping our Editor-in-Chief to run such a fantastic youth organisation.

Catarina and Priyanka, IPF's Editor-in-Chief [Image credit: The IPF]

Catarina and Priyanka, the IPF’s Editor-in-Chief [Image credit: The IPF]

How did you get your first job in the charity sector?

When I graduated in June 2014, I decided to go travelling for a bit. As I was travelling South America, I started sending job applications to both charities and media organisations. I applied for EVERYTHING, including for a job at a magazine reporting on pubs. Yes, believe it or not, there’s a magazine about pubs!

Application after application, and rejection after rejection, I started to get frustrated.

After a long process, I finally landed my first “real” job as a Communications Coordinator at London School of Economics Students’ Union (LSESU) and University of the Arts Students’ Union (SUARTS). Many people don’t realise but Student Unions are actually charitable organisations, campaigning for the rights of students and making sure they make the most out of their university experience.

My job at LSESU and SUARTS was a great way start to my career. I learned about social media, video making, campaigning, photography, e-newsletters, blogging etc.

One of the campaigns I worked on even made it to Buzzfeed UK. How cool is that?!

After my job at LSESU and SUARTS, I moved on to a job as a Communications Assistant at Back Up, a national charity helping people who are paralysed. Here, I was responsible for managing and developing the charity’s communication platforms and increasing their media presence. I got stories on a bunch of local newspapers across the country, and interviewed some amazing people along the way. Additionally, I managed all their social media channels, designed promotional materials and put together a monthly e-newsletter to be sent to over 8,000 people.

Alongside this job, I also started a media project called Little Portugal – telling the stories of Portuguese-speakers (like myself) living in London.

I don’t want to make it seem like getting a job in the charity sector is an easy task and that you don’t need any previous experience. Because that’s not true.

During and after university, I spent my free time interning and volunteering at online publications, charities and NGOs. I worked as an intern News Reporter at Gay Star News, a Communications Volunteer at Refugee Action Kingston, a Youth Advisor at Index on Censorship, a student officer at my own Students’ Union, a Marketing Director for a play etc. I even had my own radio show.

To wrap things up – I got my first job in the charity sector after lots of hard work. But as long as you’re doing something you love, you’ll be fine.

What are best and worst parts of working in the charity sector?

Best bit of working in the charity sector is definitely the people you meet. You become friends with like-minded people, with who you can have fascinating discussions about human rights, politics, economics etc. So far, I’ve met artists, campaigners, soon-to-be politicians and activists.

The worst bit? As you would expect, charities don’t have lots of resources. When you have a brilliant idea for a campaign or a project, it can be hard to bring it to reality.

You end up having to use your creativity to make things happen without any money – which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can get frustrating after a while.

What advice would you give to recent graduates or young people seeking a career in the charity sector?

Many people think the charity sector is not competitive. Guess what? You’re wrong. To get a job in a charity, you need to know your skills like the palms of your hands, and you need to know how those skills can have an impact.

Small charities always look for people who are good at doing a variety of different things.

If you want to get a job in communications, you should know a little bit about social media, photography, content management systems, press releases, blogs etc. And how do you get these skills? You need to make the most out of university and volunteering opportunities.

At university, make sure you join societies (and run for your society committee), get involved with your Students’ Union, run campaigns about things that matter to you, research local organisations and ask them if they need a hand with a specific project, apply for summer internships etc.

When you finally graduate, don’t stop volunteering. Keep on supporting charities close to your heart.

I also recommend that you go to as many networking events as possible. You never know who you will meet – plus they always offer free wine.

But the best advice I can give you to get a job in the charity sector? Don’t be shy when it comes to tell your future employee about all the amazing things you’ve done. Brag about yourself. You’re pretty awesome if you can study, work and volunteer at the same time. And they should know about it.

What does the future hold, where would you like to be in a few years?

Well, this is the question I always hate to answer at job interviews. But I will give it a shot. I’m currently studying for a MSc in Global Conflict and Peace Processes at University of Aberdeen, Scotland. My research mainly focuses on the rights of people with disabilities in conflict areas. And I would love to put disability rights onto the news agenda.

Besides journalism, I would also like to carry on working with charities. But here’s my biggest dream:

In a few years for now, I see myself walking into an office with IPF’s logo on the door, a place where we can keep on empowering young journalists.

To find out more about the IPF‘s new Careers section or to seek advice on breaking into your first job, get in touch with us at careers@the-ipf.com.