Finding a Graduate Job in the Charity Sector

Finding a Graduate Job in the Charity Sector

“The more charitable experience you can gain the better, as recruiters will see that you truly care.”

So, you’ve realised that the charity sector is the place to find a fulfilling career – great! But now the big question is how do you break into it?!

The graduate job market can be tough. And it’s often tricky to know where to start. The charity sector, in particular, can be overlooked by graduates, as charities just don’t have the funding to go into universities to inform students about the sector and the possible routes to take. But you can launch successful, and more importantly meaningful, careers in the charity sector; whether you studied Business, Marketing, English, or Chemistry – everyone’s skills are needed.

How Do I Get Experience?

If you’re still at Uni, then a great way to start is to get some voluntary experience at least once a week with a local charity. Smaller charities are usually more in need of an extra pair of hands, so approaching one to help out with marketing, admin, or whatever direction you want to head would really hold you in good stead. However more practical ‘hands-on’ volunteer roles that aren’t office based will still look great on your CV – even if it doesn’t directly correlate to the role you eventually want. Reach out to different charities by email, through social media, or by simply going to the office in person. They will always be appreciative of more help.

Internships are another way to start building your CV. Paid internships are admittedly tricky to come by in the sector, but they do exist. The National Trust offer paid internships as part of their Community Learning and Volunteer Schemes and no experience is needed to be selected.  It’s worth approaching figures in the industry on charity community platforms such as CharityConnect to ask directly if you could intern with them for a while. In the charity sector you will generally find that if people can help you out, they will. And they say – if you don’t ask you don’t get!

What Skills Do I Need?

  • Communication – good communication skills are an absolute must in most roles, but even more so in the charity sector, as it is crucial that you communicate the charities mission and vision in all aspects of your work. Whether that’s meeting people at industry events, when fundraising, or when marketing your charity – it’s so important to convey their message clearly and effectively
  • Organisation – particularly at small charities, you may find that your role encompasses a few different elements, all of which must be balanced which requires exemplary organisational skills
  • Innovation – charities are a great space for innovation and a wonderful way to call on your creative side to make things work with often very tight budgets
  • Flexibility – you’ll need to be able to adapt your approach constantly as you’ll likely be dealing with many different people, from users of the charities services to journalists and PR people, to donors. Each set requires something slightly different from you. Additionally, you will need to be able to respond to changing levels of funding
  • People skills – as mentioned above you’re likely to encounter many different people working in the sector. You’ll need to convince people to part with their cash when raising funds or speak to people easily when raising awareness of your cause
  • Enthusiasm – you’ll need tonnes of it! And recruiters will certainly want to see this from you
  • Determination – there are times when it might feel a little disheartening when funding is cut, or you hear a particularly harrowing account from someone that your charity is there to support. It’s important to use these moments to keep motivating yourself to make sure your charity is driving forwards and keeps moving in the right direction

Where Do I Start?

Specialist job boards for the sector such as CharityJob are a great place to research available roles and what kind of salary you can expect. It’s the sectors leading job board and has thousands of charity and not-for-profit jobs live at any given time.

Another thing to look at is grad schemes. Admittedly they are harder to come by than in the private sector, but there are increasingly more of them floating around, especially at larger charities.

Cancer Research run a graduate scheme with five different streams to choose from: fundraising and marketing, policy, information and communications, finance, scientific strategy and funding, and technology. There’s bound to be something to suit your interests!

Charityworks offer graduate trainee leadership schemes. The position lasts for 12 months and you’ll need a 2:1 to apply.

Frontline runs 6-month internships and 2-year leadership development programmes. They also provide shorter-term internships you can complete in the summer whilst still at Uni, or graduate taster days to see if it’s really for you.

Amnesty International regularly have 4-6-month internships available at their London, Geneva and New York offices – so keep an eye on their website for the next vacancy.

Unicef run internships that you give you real hands-on experience. It’s just a matter of keeping an eye out on their page.

Barnardo’s have a whole range of volunteer internships located all around the country.

Oxfam voluntary internships give you the opportunity to gain experience and develop skills in the areas that really interest you.

Teach First is a 2-year programme to help children from poorer backgrounds leave school with the results they deserve – and you’ll come out of it with a PGCE.

Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of the best places to start as you launch your career in the charity sector. The more charitable experience you can gain the better, as recruiters will see that you truly care. Make sure to include every fundraising event you participated in at university, charities you had a role in (no matter how small), and every run you did to raise money and your CV will become even more appealing! For more advice about the charity sector and how you can break into it, visit the CharityJob blog for advice and guidance.

Good luck in your search!