By Magella Burnett

In this series, Senior Recruitment Consultant in the Charities & Not-for-Profit sector, Magella Burnett, will be talking to industry leaders about how they have progressed in the past and their advice to those looking to follow in their footsteps.

This week Magella spoke to Pascale Nicholls, a Head of Central Finance…

When and how did you decide you were ready for the next step up in your career? 

I had initially no intention of moving into my current role – I had previously led the International Finance Team at Amnesty International and had built up the team from one consultant to six full time employees and established the strategic direction for the function. When I was discussing my return to workplace mid-way through my maternity leave, my line manager raised the prospect of moving into the soon to be vacant Head of Central Finance role. Being away from the workplace had given me time to reassess want I wanted to do next and I was ready for a new challenge. Whilst I had some initial reservations about the role itself, the International Finance Team were performing at an exceptional level and the common accounting framework and associated reporting mechanism had been firmly embedded. So now was the time to make a change!

Did you have a mentor or coach?

I have a fantastic mentor (part of the Charity Finance Group mentoring programme) who is supporting me with taking my next step up. I have also been fortunate to have been coached by colleagues and peers within and outside of Amnesty – if you do not have a mentor or coach try and find one and consider being a mentor or coach yourself.

If you moved into a more senior role in a new organisation, how did you demonstrate your ability to step up?

Moving from practice to the third sector was a huge leap of faith and taking on a completely new role that reported directly to the Senior Director and required me to lead a complex multi-location, multi-stakeholder project from the offset was both a step up and a culture shock. Whilst I had not worked in a finance department at that point, I had to demonstrate the transferability of the skills that I had honed as a senior audit manager (both technical and behavioural).

Did you have someone who helped and advised you in your progression? If so, who?

Yes, I have been fortunate to have been supported by line managers, my mentor and various coaches.

As someone who has progressed to a senior level, what advice would you give someone who’s looking to step up?

My top tips would be:

  • Find yourself a mentor or coach
  • Make sure that you are living your purpose in the workplace and find the right step up
  • Think about the behaviours (as well as technical skills) you will need to demonstrate and be able to illustrate these with some compelling examples

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