"Don't lose hope.. your dream job could be just around the corner"

“Don’t lose hope… your dream job could be around the corner” – Diana Khanom from St Kilda Mums on finding her dream job during a pandemic.

People find amazing jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au every day. This is part of a series of articles that go behind the scenes to meet some of the people and organisations finding each other through EthicalJobs.com.au.

This story is from Diana Khanom, who found her role as Philanthropy Manager for St Kilda Mums on EthicalJobs.com.au.

St Kilda Mums provide safety, opportunity and dignity for children and families in Victoria by collecting and redistributing quality pre-loved nursery equipment, children’s clothing, books and toys.

Starting out with work

My first ‘proper’ job was in fashion retail for a high street brand in the UK. I had completed a week of work experience as part of my school’s “Enterprise Week” before landing a Christmas contract, which then became permanent. I learnt a lot about confidence and communication as a shy 16-year-old.

When the time came to start a degree, I signed up to do a BA in Television and Radio Production at the University of Salford (Manchester) but it didn’t quite feel right so I ended up switching to a BA in Journalism and Broadcast.

Upon graduating, I quickly found work at a news agency before switching to an ethnic print media publication. Around this time I was offered a highly sought after trainee position at a local newspaper – and so I finally felt like my journalism career was making waves. Alas, the dawning of a new digital era was shaking up the world of print journalism and news corporations were constantly restructuring due to shrinking advertising budgets.

The trainee contract I took on as a local reporter came to an abrupt end and so I decided to put my writing skills to good use and dip my toes into the corporate world of Public Relations. I worked at two renowned PR agencies and even did an internship in New York. Working in PR gave me great grounding in working under continuous pressure, stakeholder interaction and building relationships.

Two years passed and it was during this time I decided I’d much prefer to have a connection to real community issues and so, in a happy twist of fate, I ended up working for a 10-year regeneration program in a deprived neighbourhood in Coventry (UK) editing a community magazine.

I thrived in this role and the best part was connecting with the local residents to understand and advocate the issues impacting their lives. I built a deeper understanding of entrenched poverty, social housing, and the many different ways disadvantage impacted poorer communities. At the end of the program, a community trust was set up and I was one of the lucky few to stay on and work for the city’s first social enterprise delivering design/PR services.  

In 2012 I moved to Australia to start a new life with my husband and my career went on hold whilst waiting for my visa to come through. I quickly got itchy feet and decided to volunteer at a local not-for-profit which provided families with early childhood education and care services. This volunteer role quickly turned into a permanent contract in marketing and fundraising. 

During my 7 years there I undertook a variety of roles and thus commenced my foray into the fundraising world. I became what is typically known as an all-round fundraiser which basically means I did everything from appeals and newsletters, donor communications, community fundraising, bequests, administration and grant writing. I found I had many transferable skills which fit naturally into what the role entailed, and I picked up the fundamentals of fundraising such as relationship building, building donor journeys and creating gifting opportunities for supporters who share your vision. It was during this period in my career that I became a mother and felt even more passionate about the organisation’s mission to give all children the best start in life through quality early education, intervention and support.

As is life in the not-for-profit sector, the organisation went through financial challenges and so my time there came to an end after a restructure. Suddenly I found myself looking for a new job in the midst of a pandemic. Although I was anxious about whether I’d have any success looking for work, I decided to use the opportunity to pause and take stock of where my career had taken me and where I wanted to invest my time and talent in the future. 

I tried to stay true to my dreams and values and continued to apply for jobs during lockdown. Although I held a breadth of experience, I was ready to focus on specialising in one area of fundraising. I also wanted to work part-time to allow me to be the best parent and employee possible. It was around this time that this job on EthicalJobs.com.au caught my eye.

The more I researched the organisation and their approach to fundraising, the more I realised this would be my dream job. I was confident I met all the key competencies and so I put myself forward.

Working at St Kilda Mums

The St Kilda Mums vision is to share more, waste less and care for every child. Our mission is to provide safety, opportunity and dignity for children and families in Victoria by collecting and redistributing quality pre-loved nursery equipment, children’s clothing, books and toys.

The best part is that this also prevents material goods from needlessly ending up in landfill which saves the earth’s precious resources.

St Kilda Mums started as a humble idea from a group of caring mums back in 2009. In the last 11 years the organisation has grown exponentially to become leaders in the recycling and rehoming of high-quality nursery equipment to families in need.

Today we operate Victoria-wide, with two further branches in Geelong and Ballarat. We also share our knowledge with sister organisations across Australia and globally.

As the Philanthropy Manager, my role is responsible for the soliciting, application and management of income from trusts and foundations, private ancillary funds and gift in wills. This income makes up more than a third of our fundraising target and is critical to sustain our fast-growing organisation. 

A typical week usually involves researching opportunities, reading detailed grant guidelines, reaching out to funders to discuss opportunities, writing and project managing the submission of a grant application or report writing for funding we have already received. As a Philanthropy Manager your specialist subject becomes your organisation and mission. I believe the work we do is effortlessly inspirational, so I take pleasure in approaching potential funders.

Starting a new job during the COVID-19 pandemic means I have only met a handful of my colleagues in person and I’ve had to adjust to working in a new team through a virtual lens. I suspect I’ll probably feel like it’s my first day at work all over again when we go back to working at our offices in the future (hopefully!).

Easily the most rewarding thing has been the experience of working in a female-led organisation as part of a team who are passionate, resourceful and innovative. I am surrounded by exemplary role models and it has been a real professional privilege.

Also hopefully the best moment in my job will come when I have success in securing some major funding for our future growth. I must say, I also find it incredibly rewarding reading some of the heartfelt testimonials we have had from beneficiaries and social workers – a welcome reminder of how our service is changing lives every day.

Working for a better world

I think I was recommended EthicalJobs.com.au by a friend when I first moved to Australia. In my job seeking experience, it is one of the best websites to use if you are looking for a career in the not-for-profit sector.

Professionally, Philanthropy Manager role attracted me as it was the perfect opportunity to focus my fundraising career in a specialist area. The excellent reputation of the organisation and the vision/mission also resonated with me on a personal level.

Working in the not-for-profit sector allows you to work for causes you are passionate about – and get paid in the process! Honestly, I have worked in both the private/public sector but nothing matches the deep personal satisfaction you get from helping to change someone’s life for the better. This is something money can’t buy and quite often the reason why many of us stay.

On a personal level, I believe life is about making an impact, not making an income so it is important for me to contribute my time, energy and experience to causes I care about.

My advice to jobseekers is don’t lose hope when you’ve had rejections as your dream job could be around the corner! Every time I was being rejected from something I thought was good for my career, I was actually being redirected to somewhere better. Have self-confidence and apply for roles which attract and challenge you – you got this!