Ben B.

Senior Grants Officer
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Ben B.
Post-war Reconstruction and Development
Post-War Recovery Studies
Taught Postgraduate
United Kingdom

My employment

Senior Grants Officer
Charity and voluntary sector
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Senior Grants Officer in Italy

A language will really help you in the humanitarian sector both to get the role and then to do it well.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

COOPI (Cooperazione Internazionale) is an Italian humanitarian organisation that works in a number of emergency contexts to support people who have been affected by conflict and/or natural disasters.

What do you do?

I am based in head office in Milan and I'm responsible for COOPI's account management of ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) funding as the principal strategic donor for the organisation. This includes external relationship management with ECHO and other International Organisations, and internally providing strategic direction and support to COOPI country programmes with regard to the development and management of ECHO funding.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

After leaving York, I've been in the humanitarian sector for over 8 years now and have worked in a number of countries (South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda, CAR and Iraq) alongside HQ based positions in London. I've also worked with a number of different organisations: Tearfund, War Child UK, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Medair, and now currently COOPI. I've been fortunate to have held different roles in this period from logistics manager, to programme operations coordinator, and deputy country director - and so have been able to see a number of perspectives within the sector and types of roles that are available.

Having had different experiences i look for an organisation that has a good reputation and a role that i feel i would enjoy and also find challenging. For finding new roles i use recruitment websites such as reliefweb and charityjob, organisation job pages, and also listening to colleagues and other staff on the culture of other organisations and seeing if that might be good for me.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

No. I'd planned to work in the international development/humanitarian sector and i've been able to do that. However, during the past 8 years i have certainly changed direction in terms of the type of roles I have taken and ones i will look to do in the future.

Describe your most memorable day at work

I have been fortunate durning my career in this sector to see a number of amazing projects delivered to support people in some of the most challenging contexts in the world, for example through three days of driving through the jungle to access a remote town in DRC where we were installing a water system. The most memorable however, was being able to support a project that worked with a group of young people in central african republic and to see them develop into young leaders over a number of years - this was very special.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

The hardest part of the jobs overseas is that you are often based in very difficult and isolated environments which can mean that maintaining a good work/life balance is hard, and also that you face many pressures that you wouldn't face in a more "normal" location with regard to insecurity. Additionally, it's very likely in my role that a number of difficult challenges arrive at the same time and so it's a matter of problem solving and prioritising.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

I studied french in the languages for all, and this came in use during a number of subsequent jobs and certainly in my current role. A language will really help you in the humanitarian sector both to get the role and then to do it well - it makes a big difference being able to communicate with colleagues coming from different cultures in their language, particularly in terms of building trust.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

It's a challenging sector to start in as there is a lot of competition for entry level/junior roles. I would suggest applying for as many roles as possible (don't worry about it not being exactly what you want to do as a first role as each role will teach you different skills that often prove useful in future jobs), learning a language is extremely helpful, and if you have a speciality then focus on that and what makes you a different candidate to others. Doing additional courses/volunteer work can also be very useful for developing your professional and personnel experience.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

I am happy to answer any questions you may have about the humanitarian and development sector and share about my experience and any tips/resources that might be useful for you.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Ben’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Ben a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Ben to be your mentor.

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