Thursday, 31 May 2018

Pro Bono OR Spotlight May - Translating your experience across contexts

Pro Bono OR Spotlight May
Translating experience across contexts: Tips for helping charitable organisations and employers understand your CV and application
The OR’s Pro Bono work harnesses our volunteers’ expertise to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges.  Our previous volunteers have used their OR expertise to improve public health, strengthen communities and support educational programming for disadvantaged youth.
Hundreds of professionals from across the field of OR serve as volunteers with a wide range of deserving third sector organisations, including charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups.  They use their own approaches and skills to tackle challenging, often specialised operational issues that help make our third sector partners more efficient, equitable and effective.
Partnering the right volunteer with the right charitable organisation is central to what we do.
Translating experiences across professional and volunteer contexts, however, is often challenging. Volunteers are usually established professionals with long experience and weighty CVs.  However, when it comes to communicating with the third sector about volunteering, there may be more that you need to consider. Equally, it is not always obvious how to translate your pro bono volunteer experiences into meaningful professional contributions.
Translating your professional experience for the charity sector
One of our simplest strategies for partnering volunteers to charities involves sharing your single-page application form and CV with our partners (emailed via Pro Bono lead, Amy Hughes).  This allows them to consider the range of skills and candidates available to them, so they can choose who they would like to work on the project. Who better to know who would work best in their place of work that the organisation themselves.
However, while charities are often in desperate need of OR expertise, most are largely unaware of the related skills, specialisations and…jargon.
Operational Research, like any field, is full of specialised language.  This extends into professional CVs and - often - our volunteers’ Pro Bono applications.  Our third sector partners regularly struggle to interpret these minefields of OR ‘buzzwords’.
So here are some tips for prospective applicants to help ensure their CV and application translates across contexts:
●   Translate key professional jargon (skills, techniques, software and programmes) into language that you think non-experts are likely to understand.
●   Provide examples of key skills and methods so that non-experts, even if they do not immediately understand the concepts or terminology, can recognise their real-world value.
●     Adapt your CV to the role. What knowledge and skills do you have that this project requires? Volunteers may have some impressive experiences in the field of OR, but they may simply be redundant information to charities choosing the best applicant for their specific problem.
●     Do not be afraid to get personal - if you have a connection to the charity, share it! They want to know that you are as invested in their cause as they are.  
●     Get to know the charity. Remember charitable organisations are value-driven, each with a distinct vision and mission statement, so do your research and figure out if you’re a match. Then tailor your approach to the application accordingly, appealing to the aims and objectives of the charitable organisation you’re looking to work with.
●      Provide details about how you would approach the problem(s) identified in the charity’s project advert, and explain why you this is the most appropriate strategy.  Again, consider that your readers are likely to have a limited understanding of the OR field, so moderate your language and consider direct means of presentation, such a bulleted lists.
●      Also highlight other translatable skills that you think will compliment the organisation. The third sector is incredibly versatile, so show them that you are too.

Translating your volunteer experience for your professional CV
The Pro Bono OR process is constantly being refined to make it a mutually beneficial scheme. We recognise our volunteers’ enthusiasm and contributions, but also the importance of ensuring these experiences are meaningful, skill-building and helpful professionally.
It is not always immediately obvious, however, how to translate your volunteering into professional contexts.
Volunteering can offer a range of personal and professional benefits, including:
●      The opportunity to use your professional skills in an applied case that likely differs from your ‘everyday’ context.  Highlighting this versatility can be a valuable contribution to a professional CV, where employers often value adaptability.
●      Additional training. Charities regularly provide internal and external training to their volunteers and can contributing to your skillset.
●      Development of interpersonal skills. Employers want people who can work comfortably and constructively as part of mixed teams.
●      Experience in supervising, mentoring and coaching.
●      Knowledge about other sectors. Many of our volunteers come from the private sector, and volunteering can offer new exposure to the third sector, ranging from local community trusts to national public health initiatives, that can help build a rounded professional profile.
●      Light touch project management, including influencing others’ decision making and engaging with stakeholders from other sectors and fields.
●      Finally, the extensive skills list - Consultancy skills, Time management, priority management, problem-solving, strategic planning ability, flexibility and the ability to cope with pressure and challenges
Translating experiences across sectors and fields is essential to the success of OR’s Pro Bono work, ensuring the right match between volunteers and charities, while ensuring that volunteer experiences are professionally meaningful.
To sign-up for more information about Pro Bono OR, including upcoming volunteer opportunities email
To apply for a specific project, fill out our single-page application form.
These simple steps are all you need to join a project that will change your outlook, your CV and a charitable organisation’s ability to succeed.

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