Pursue Your Purpose, Make Your Mark. 

Careers4Change started this series of changemaker profiles to inspire and encourage those who are considering a career change to explore the options in the social impact sector and find their purpose.  We are keen to reinforce the message from social and impact investor leaders that impact entrepreneurs are at the forefront of rebuilding the economy post-pandemic and purpose-driven businesses are the future.

Chris Colwell

Chris worked in commercial banking for 10 years and decided to pursue a more rewarding role which aligned with his aspirations to support the third sector. His day-to-day role as an Investment Manager is to support both new and existing clients from the initial stages of investment, to assessing business plans and financial forecasts, to managing the ongoing client relationship while acting as the client’s main point of contact.

What inspired you to move to the social sector?

If I think about what I was doing day-to-day in my previous job, I wasn’t making a tangible difference. In my current role, I’m seeing the explicit changes I am making to disadvantaged communities and that’s very inspirational. I was already involved in local community projects but I wanted to make a bigger difference on a day-to-day basis. There’s something very rewarding about giving a grant to a community or project, and then seeing the end results: the number of jobs it creates, or how many local people it helps.

How did you make your first move?

I’d seen the opportunity on a LinkedIn advert. Originally, when I looked at the job description on a speculative basis, I felt underqualified regarding the charity and non-profit aspect, but I decided to apply. The lesson here is that we tend to put ourselves down and it’s easy to be put off by reading a job description by thinking that we don’t tick certain boxes. In reality, I was blinded to the fact that I had lots of relevant experience that would be valuable to Key Fund.

Sheena, the Founder of Careers4Change, got in touch with me.  She assured me that much of my experience did align nicely. For people moving from the corporate sector, the likelihood is that you don’t have experience in charities or non-profit organisations but, you will have other experience that would apply, and dynamic diverse teams are crucial. As corporate individuals, we are used to analysing business plans and accounts – a skill which we can bring to the social sector. You can leverage these skills for the next stage of your career.

When you made the move, what was really difficult?

On my first day, they gave me six files and said: where you were working previously, would you have been looking at any case studies or proposals like these? The answer was no.  It was a big move away from the practices and parameters I was used to while working at a bank. Looking at all the social elements takes some getting used to. When you are working at a bank you are looking at accounts and profits, in a social organisation you are looking at how certain investments will make a societal difference. It is something I had never had to consider before.

How do you think the social sector differs to the corporate sector?

The main difference is the type of colleagues and clients you are working alongside. They are hospitable, generous, and caring; people who don’t have money as a motivation, but want to make a real difference. Everyone who is working in this industry is concerned about seeing first-hand the changes they are making to society, and bringing their values to work. We have to ask ourselves: why are people working in the social sector? Why have they chosen that path instead of working in traditional business?

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

An important part of my role is seeing my clients and the projects in action ‘on the ground’, across a range of geographical locations, as I can truly see the impact they have on their communities. You feel more connected to the people you are working with and can see the impact for yourself.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I can’t think of anything; it has been a really good move for me. Although, more recently, Covid-19 has had an impact. A big part of my role was being very mobile and spending three to four days visiting clients across a wide area, and we can’t do that anymore. Usually, we deliver the initial investment but we also have a relationship-based model so we work with the clients throughout the project, between five to ten years. I look forward to returning to visit my clients in the near future to see the direct impact our funding is having.

Do you have any top tips for anyone thinking about a career transition?

You can gain a lot from looking at social organisations’ websites and their case studies to get an idea of the sort of work they are involved in. Check out Key Fund, the National Lottery, Power to Change, Locality, and Careers4Change. Use LinkedIn frequently. You could follow some inspiring leaders such as the CEO of Key Fund, Matt Smith, who was just awarded a CBE.

 

Want to know more? You can follow Chris on LinkedIn and Twitter. Check out Key Fund.

If you have a career transition story you would like to share, get in touch!