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Eleanor Hynes – Human Appeal


Hi my name is Eleanor Hines and I'm just here to talk about my career journey and how I got to where I am now in my career.

I graduated in 2015 with a Psychology degree. At the time I went into the degree wanting to be a therapist, that was my original plan, however as I got towards the end of my degree I realised that wasn't right for me and something that I didn't really want to continue pursuing. So I suddenly felt very overwhelmed with lots of different options, you can do quite a lot with a Psychology degree, however I wasn't really coming to a conclusion very quickly I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. Go forward a few months, I'm about to graduate, and I have a housing situation where I live in my student house and I have to be helped by a charity. So I was helped by a youth homelessness charity who gave me temporary accommodation, and through being helped by volunteers I realised that I've been volunteering my whole life through Uni and even before Uni and perhaps what I wanted to do was to continue working with charities and giving back full time, and helping volunteers. So I decided to look into that kind of path, like working with volunteers full-time, and luckily the charity that helped me out offered me some work experience. So about six months after graduating I interned with them for a week in London. I took on any task I possibly could, I learnt the ins and outs of absolutely everything in the sector, got all the advice I could get, I spoke to every single person about what their job was and what they did in their day-to-day roles. I knew absolutely nothing about how to apply for a job graduating, I didn't know what jobs were appropriate for me, what I could go for with the experience that I had. I got the really good advice that what I should be going for is a job that has assistant in the title. That might not be relevant to all sectors but within the jobs I was looking for I was told to look for a job that has assistant in title. I slowly realised there weren't too many of those jobs going around, especially in the north. There's quite a lot of charities operating in London. However, I came across a posting for a Volunteers Assistant in Manchester for a charity called Human Appeal.

Human Appeal is an international development charity, based in Manchester, working in 25 countries around the world including the UK. So we do aid in the UK and abroad, mainly in Africa and East Asia. When I saw the job I was so excited and I applied and I was very fortunate to get it following an interview. The initial job was pretty much being an assistant to the rest of the team, so I had to do a lot of administration, putting volunteers in the database, but I've been really fortunate to sort of grow with the organisation and grow with the team. So I started in a group of two, and now we're in a group of four. And I've been promoted to a Volunteer Officer position, so I get to manage an entire region of volunteers on my own. Whenever someone registers in the Midlands I would send them a welcome email and invite them to an induction and get any training done and help them with whatever they need - so be it supervision, if they have a safeguarding concern, that all comes under me now. So it's been really amazing watching myself grow through an organization, and gain more and more skills. I feel like I'm learning every single day.

It's not an easy job. I know all of us on my team we all have our struggles and things that come up. It can be very difficult sometimes, you know with volunteering you want people to have the best possible experience and when people are having problems at home it can be quite tough. So I think you do have to have a certain amount of sort of thick skin to what you do, because sometimes you do come across safeguarding issues that you have to correct. We're part of the wider HR team so we get a lot of confidential information that we come across in terms of the organisation, as well as the volunteers. But it is such a rewarding job. You get to see people really develop their skills from sometimes nothing to being extremely confident and putting themselves out there and raising thousands of pounds for people in need. It’s really inspiring to see you and I know the volunteers inspire me a lot every day, so that's really wonderful.

I think the best advice for someone looking for a graduate job, any job at all, is do find a mentor - someone who's in your sector who has been in it for a while, that kind of knows what sort of jobs are good for graduates, what kind of places are going to get you in. I think a lot of the time it’s because people don't really know what they're applying for, and they don't know sort of what the standard is. So definitely see if you can, you know, go online - there's lots of groups on LinkedIn - and talk to someone in your sector and see if you can kind of find you know what is the perfect entry level job. I think likewise volunteer if you can if you have the availability, you know there's lots of ad hoc opportunities out there and as well as ongoing ones so you can find opportunities that fit around your studies, I know I did that. So I would recommend that as a way to build your skills and you can use that on your CV if you don't have the time to gain that office experience, it's just a little bit extra that might get you the job. I know in my case it was my big list of volunteering on my CV that got me an interview, and then my passion for the cause that got me the job. So that's what I'd recommend. If you're interested in volunteer management and you want to get into the sector do feel free to find me on LinkedIn or any of those networks and I'll be more than happy to give you any advice on that. Thanks for listening!