Alumni Services

Career Journeys: working in the Third Sector

Megan Burt now works in the charity sector having studied Arabic and Persian. Here she shares her journey to working at Children in Scotland and how the skills she gained through her year abroad have impacted her work.

Name Megan Burt
Degree Course MA (Hons) Arabic and Persian
Year of Graduation 2017

What is your current role and what does your work include?

My job title is Administration Co-ordinator and I work in the Policy, Projects and Participation Team at Children in Scotland. My work is a real mix and that is what I enjoy about it. I am the administrator for the whole department, which means I can get involved in all the work that is happening. My main role involves the organisation of the core policy work for the department, including the Cross-Party Group on Children and Young People, which takes place 5 times a year at the Scottish Parliament; Voices Forums, where members come together to discuss important issues that influence the work we do; and Strategic Forums, where the Chief Executives of all the children’s sector organisations come together. Aside from this, I also support the many projects that are taking place in the department, in topics ranging from children’s rights to health inequalities to the heritage sector.

The most rewarding aspect of my role is knowing that I am making a difference to children’s lives in Scotland. It may not be direct, but the indirect policy and project work that we do influences change on a strategic level.

When I graduated, I wasn’t sure exactly what career path I wanted to go down, but my experiences over the last 2 and a half years have given me a chance to figure that out. In the back of my mind, I always had an idea of working in NGOs/the third sector. However, because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I started by moving to Germany. I wanted to improve my German language skills, which I had neglected since school, and while I was there, I worked as au pair and volunteered with the local council’s refugee service. When I came back to Edinburgh, I started temping whilst looking for jobs. I believe the administration and office experience I gained from different roles was the reason I was lucky enough to get a job in the Learning and Development Team at Macmillan Cancer Support. This was a great opportunity and was also a stepping-stone to my current role in the Policy, Projects and Participation Department at Children in Scotland.

What do you think was the most valuable aspect of your time at Edinburgh in preparation for your career?

My year abroad; I think the skills I learned where invaluable. I had to work hard at a language institute, while dealing with culture shock and learning to live in a new country. I also volunteered at an NGO while I was abroad, which definitely helped with my confidence, not only through speaking Arabic, but also spending time with some incredibly inspiring women.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in your area of work?

The charity/third sector is a difficult sector to enter into. An easy way is to start at the bottom, which I did, but I also think you need some experience before trying to get a job in this sector. I would recommend taking as many opportunities as possible and practicing interview skills. The more you are able to talk about what you have done, the better you will come across. You can take examples from anything you have done, for example, during my interview with Macmillan, I talked about how I produced a theatre production at university and all the skills that came with that.

Volunteering is also a good start. Many people I know have managed to get jobs at the charity they were volunteering for. Being a volunteer also gives you the necessary skills for working in a charity environment.

Lastly, if you are financially motivated, this may not be the right career path, but if you are values driven, then the charity sector will be a very rewarding career for you.