Written by Zannah Ingraham, Graduate Prospects, October 2010
With a paid workforce of over 600,000 in the UK alone, the charity sector is huge. However, competition for jobs is intense, meaning those serious about doing good will need to get some experience.
Jennifer Williams volunteered with Groundwork Leeds, during the second year of her degree in Community Regeneration and Development.
‘As the charity’s vision was strongly related to the subjects I was studying, I felt confident that the placement would strengthen my learning,’ she explains.
Jennifer worked as a community engagement volunteer carrying out consultations with residents across estates in Leeds and Bradford and gathering feedback on environmental improvements being made in the area.
‘The placement has really helped my confidence and I know that my decision to pursue postgraduate study is no longer just based on my degree,Jennifer Williams Groundwork Leeds
The project not only allowed her to put theory into practice, but also provided vital knowledge for her studies in the third year. ‘A lot of modules have more resonance now that I can see how an organisation such as Groundwork interrelates with other sectors across the region,’ she says.
Jennifer’s placement led to a part-time role with the organisation where she now works while completing her final year. ‘The placement has really helped my confidence and I know that my decision to pursue postgraduate study is no longer just based on my degree, but is a result of my work placement here at Groundwork.’
As well as providing students with the information needed to make informed career decisions, work experience in the charity sector can also help graduates get a foot in the door.
Sophie Cannon undertook an internship with Cancer Research UK after she graduated, a move which led her straight into a full-time role with the charity.
‘I have always been very passionate about charity work and spent a lot of time at university fundraising for charities,’ Sophie explains. ‘After university, I had difficulty securing a job and decided to look for work placements.’
Sophie’s internship involved working on ‘8Rocks’, an event for the Lawrence Dallaglio Foundation. ‘From the first day, I was busy organising the fundraising and liaising with guests,’ she says. ‘I was in charge of producing the event programme and ensuring all guests received the correct information before the event. The event was fantastic and we had a whole host of celebrities in attendance including Lemar and Tom Chaplin from Keane.’
Cancer Research UK
The event raised over £600,000 for Cancer Research UK and confirmed that working with the charity was right for Sophie. During her placement, a permanent role came up and she was lucky enough to be interviewed and offered the job.
‘My new role is working on a new partnership with the Seve Ballesteros Foundation to raise money for Cancer Research UK’s brain cancer research. Work experience in the charity sector has been invaluable. It helped me develop so many skills that I would have otherwise struggled with in my job.’
Like Sophie, Jennifer is confident that her experience will stand her in good stead in future. ‘A lot of students are put off the charity sector as they are eager to work in a competitive environment,’ she says. ‘However, having volunteered in both the public and private sector, my experience working for a charity has provided the largest investment in my personal and professional development.’
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