Case study

Volunteer assistant and work placement officer — Laura

Laura's anthropology and sociology degree covered social issues, which help in her work with various charities...

How did you get your job?

I'd done a lot of volunteering while studying, as well as being president of an international development student society and undertaking full-time volunteering for a charity in Ghana. These experiences had given me an insight into the third sector and this is where I focused my job search after graduating.

I soon realised that I needed more experience so I began volunteering with a charity where I mentor newly released offenders, this is something which I continue to do now.

I completed a postgraduate certificate in counselling and interpersonal skills and mid-way through applied for my role as volunteer hub assistant at the University of Leeds. I realised this role combined my love of volunteering and working with people, as the university has over 30,000 students, not to mention over 7,000 members of staff.

After 18 months I applied for the work placement project officer role at the careers centre and my manager allowed me to go part time so I could do both roles.

I now promote volunteering and paid internship programmes in third sector organisations to students.

I felt I had an advantage in applications and interviews as I could confidently give examples of how work experience had helped me to develop skills

How relevant is your degree to your job?

I would have really struggled to secure my role if it was not for my degree and knowledge of higher education.

Studying sociology and anthropology gave me an awareness of intercultural engagement and complex social issues, which is great as I really understand some of the areas which charities are trying to address.

I have knowledge of areas such as homelessness, the care system and housing, which enables me to work closely with an organisation and help see where students may best be able to support their services.

What are your main work activities?

For the first two days of the week I work as part of the university's volunteering team. A typical day can involve meeting with charities from across the city to discuss potential volunteering opportunities which are suitable for students.

I organise the university's volunteering fair and deliver talks and sessions to students on the benefits of volunteering, as well as promoting any opportunities which are currently available.

For the rest of the week in the work placement team I work with third sector organisations to create paid summer internship opportunities. I meet with students to discuss the benefits of undertaking a placement year or internship and support students before and after with training and briefings.

What do you enjoy about your job?

One of the most enjoyable parts of my role is when a charity feeds back to me the contribution a student has made to their organisation, or the clients they work with.

We have students who have enabled children to develop their reading age of up to three years, those who have empowered asylum seekers to develop museum exhibitions and intercultural pancake parties for older people - there is amazing variety in my role.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

As I have two roles it can sometimes be challenging to balance them both because throughout the working year each will have different working priorities.

Having said that the two complement each other and a lot of my work overlaps.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to be creating more opportunities for students in the third sector through volunteering, modules, internships and placement years.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

I would definitely look at getting as much experience as possible through volunteering and internships. I felt I had an advantage in applications and interviews as I could confidently give examples of how work experience had helped me to develop skills.

I spoke with managers and professionals in areas which I wanted to work in, much of this was done through speculative telephone calls and I rang local universities to ask if I could meet with staff.

Find out more