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Moving Jobs in the Midst of a Pandemic, with Nicola Bott

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N Bott
Nicola Bott (Senior Major Gifts Fundraiser – Evelina London Children’s Hospital)

​Moving jobs is always a stressful business. You aren’t sure whether it’s the right thing to do and writing applications and preparing for interviews is quite frankly a bit of a pain. But when you throw a pandemic into the mix, it all seems a little more stressful!

Anna Ludeman, Lead Consultant (fundraising) had the pleasure of working with Nicola Bott to secure her wonderful new role with Kings College University specifically raising funds for Evelina London Children’s Hospital. The entire process from her very first interview to starting her new role, all took place during lockdown so it might be a useful read for others going through the same experience.

Here is Anna and Nicola's Q&A:

How did you find interviewing remotely and do you have any tips for candidates with upcoming interviews?

I found interviewing remotely a very positive experience. I’ve always been very comfortable using Skype, which was really helpful. I don’t feel there’s a huge difference in interviewing remotely; I always do my research on the role and charity beforehand, prepare for possible questions and dress smartly to make sure I’m presentable. I think approaching a remote interview like it is a face-to-face meeting is the right attitude to have and sets the right tone.

I would say that you do perhaps need to be extra animated and engaging so that you can demonstrate the real you and ensure that energy carries through the laptop. On the plus side, interviewing remotely can be really convenient and you can have lots of notes around you without them seeing!

Was there anything that you did miss from the usual style of interviewing?

The only thing that was really missing was the office feel. You get a real sense of energy and buzz from walking into an office and seeing who works there; you can even find out how great their coffee machine might be! It can also make it more difficult to visualise the cause as the office usually brings so much of this to life. The interviewers however were fab at describing their cause and vision and I guess a tip for interviewers is that you need to work even harder to engage a potential recruit and get them excited about the role. I had 3 interviews each lasting 2 hours, which enabled me to really delve into the wonderful work of the Evelina fundraising team.

Still, I can’t wait for the day where I can visit the Evelina London Children’s Hospital and meet the clinicians and patients who are so imperative to our fundraising efforts. I am however taking ownership for my own learning and am ensuring that I read and watch everything available to me to really understand the cause and develop the passion needed to be a successful fundraiser.

Once you secured this dream role, how did you find handing your notice in and saying bye to your wonderful team remotely?

I was really sad. It was a lot harder than I was expecting. After 5 years at Teenage Cancer Trust, I had made so many friends and really loved my team and the organisation as a whole so having to say goodbye was a really tough thing to do. Handing my notice in over the phone was probably a little easier than it would have been face to face but it is always a daunting prospect! Thankfully my manager was so supportive and agreed it was a really exciting step for me. The plus side of my last day being at home was that I didn’t have to stand in front of hundreds of people saying a tearful goodbye, although I did do plenty of crying writing my goodbye emails. I’m already looking forward to a time when we can eventually have leaving drinks together!

So, on to your wonderful new role as Senior Major Gifts Fundraiser; how did you find starting a new role from home?

Well starting a new role is always a little daunting when you are learning the ropes and understanding who does what. The same goes for starting a role remotely but I guess it is even trickier when you can’t physically see the office, the notice boards, the branding or simply see teams sitting together, which all helps you piece together the puzzle, particularly in a large fundraising team like they have at Kings. When you are in an office, you naturally absorb a lot of knowledge just from sitting with your colleagues and hearing their conversations. Working from home, there’s none of that.

The first few days can be a little lonely; you aren’t quite sure what you are doing and you don’t know anybody yet so be prepared for this. When you are in an office, you naturally feed off the buzz in the room, which is very motivating, but working from home it’s just you and a computer screen. To combat this, I would say make a huge effort to talk to people. Be proactive and make this happen by chatting to everyone you can and join any clubs that interest you. For example, I joined the Culture Club and started working on an entertaining virtual event straight away. It will feel nice to have some meetings in the diary to keep you stimulated and you will gain knowledge and insight from these conversations too. Ask for an organogram on your first day and just start booking in meetings. It’s great how well you can get to know someone working remotely! I’ve already found a handful of people that live near me and we’ve suggested meeting in the park for payday drinks (socially distanced of course!)

There have been some difficulties in getting my new work laptop up and running, which can be frustrating so I’d definitely say to anyone hiring, that you need to make sure IT and phone systems are working and ready to go! This will just help to make sure new starters have a smooth transition.

Fundraising is looking a little bit different nowadays and everyone is having to find new ways to adapt. How are you able to engage donors now that you are unable to meet them face to face?

Well again, communication is key and we are using the phone and video conferencing tools now more than ever. In some ways, it has become even easier to connect to donors as we all have something in common; experiencing lockdown! It is definitely a conversation starter and it’s been nice chatting to donors and simply getting to know them.

As a fundraiser, you can learn a huge amount from your donors so it is so important to build these relationships using as much creativity and innovation as you can to secure more funding.

How have you been finding things in life during lockdown?

Well, I guess I am feeling the same as a lot of other people. Half of me is filled with anxiety for the economy and people’s health. The other half of me has really quite enjoyed the experience – I’ve spent a lot of unexpected quality time with my husband and puppy, which has been wonderful. We’ve been renovating our flat, we’ve gone for nice walks, had our lunch in the garden and appreciated the more simple things in life.

I’ve been trying to keep myself positive throughout this time and have been trying to stop my thoughts spiralling out of control - limiting the news has really helped with this! I do however understand that a lot of people have had an incredibly awful time and I want to be mindful of how lucky I am, and respect that everyone is being affected in different ways and everyone has different opinions.