Meet Claire: Rising through the NGO ranks
Claire Neo is preparing for a learning curve. She’s Oaktree’s latest recruit. She’s leading Oaktree’s newest team. She's only five days deep in the role when I ask her how she’s juggling everything.
“I’m incredibly excited about this new portfolio, even though it can be daunting having a new team and new group of people coming together for the first time.”
The new team is Community Engagement - an amalgamation of young people working across campaigns, communications, fundraising, marketing, operations and recruitment.
But Claire is optimistic that the advantages will outweigh the daunting transition period: “Teams will be working together which means we can be more collaborative. The benefit of this portfolio is having teams less siloed and working together on specific causes.”
She’s also leading the way on Oaktree’s largest campaign and first major hurdle for 2019: Live Below the Line.
“I think we’re at a really crucial time at LBL, and it means we can take risks. I’m really excited to delve into the creative side of the campaign, as well as becoming highly specific about who we’re targeting.
“The second six months of next year will be focusing on campaigns and advocacy, or at least that is where I would like to take this role...It’s such a big part of our impact; we need young people to be more engaged with politics, so that we can get their message across and let their voices be heard”.
Paid employment in the development sector interests a lot of our readers, and Claire was more than happy to share some pearls of wisdom for success in the sector.
1. Get a foot in the door
“Being a young person, it can be daunting seeing where you have to go, believing it will take you many, many years to get there. My big thing is, find what you’re really passionate about and get your foot in the door in any way you can. By getting your foot in the door, you can show people how valuable you’ll be as an employee.”
“I was initially interviewed by two people working on the marketing and fundraising team, and I wasn't successful in that role. But they reached out and said they wanted me to meet Stacey [Former Campaigns Director] because they knew she was looking for someone to work in an Operations role, so then I had an interview with her and fell into it!”
2. Build your skills
“The main skill I’ve gained is management. Before coming to Oaktree, I’d never managed anyone before. I used to think my personality wasn’t right for it. I didn’t think I was a natural-born leader, or at least from the people you usually see as leaders, who are typically very extroverted, assertive, or dominant. I’m more of an introvert at heart and I don’t like micromanaging or being dominant. I’m more of a collaborative person.”
3. Look for a well-rounded experience
“I’m studying law but worked on Campaigning at Oaktree and did an undergraduate [degree] in marketing and management! I found out about Oaktree when I went to a Law seminar and someone was speaking about their experience at Oaktree as a non-traditional pathway for law”.
4. Discover where you’re most helpful
“Sashenka [Oaktree’s CEO] said this to me before, it’s really where your skills and passion align. For example you could be really passionate about something, but also not the best placed person to do that role. I’m still figuring that out.”
5. Take a chance
“At Oaktree, we value will over skill, passion over years of experience, we give people a chance to show what they’re made of, and that’s why I believe I’ve been offered this role. I see people taking a chance on me because I’ve performed in other parts of the organisation before, and i’m really grateful for that.”
Even if it’s not about getting paid work in the end, Claire believes working at Oaktree has been rewarding in itself.
“I can’t communicate how much Oaktree has changed my life. It’s only been a year but I already feel more confident and not ashamed of my values. I used to be a lot quieter. Long-time friends say they’ve really seen a change in me and I attribute all that to Oaktree.
I think a lot of our work is also about how we inspire young people within the organisation. What we do for volunteers here, I can’t speak more highly about Oaktree.”
Sound like something you need to be a part of? Check out our current opportunities and kickstart your career with meaningful volunteering work. If you’re anything like Claire, it’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make.