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Career Options in Charity, Not-for-profit & NGO: Student

As an undergraduate you might be thinking that the only charity you should be raising funds and working for is your very own ‘I’d like at least meal that’s not beans-on-toast’ trust. Rest assured, starving student, there are plenty of organisations in the charity, not-for-profit and NGO industry that you can set your sights upon. There will always be openings for internships and work experience and even if you want to specialise in advertising and marketing, these organisations need to reach out to people somehow, right? 

Opportunities available to undergraduates

- Work experience and internships

- University societies

- Graduate schemes (applications).

Unlike the legal sector, you don’t need to do a specific degree in order to enter the charity, not-for-profit and NGO sector. This is an industry where employers look at the skills you’ve acquired over your long and arduous university career, couple them with your enthusiasm and experience and utilise them in order raise money and make the lives of others who are less fortunate more pleasant.

You may have been working towards a career in advertising and marketing or retail management but really want to work for a charitable organisation. Not to worry! You can utilise the skills you picked up when you were a marketing intern at a local business and apply them in this sector. Additionally, if you studied finance, you could help a charity with its accounts.

Additionally, you can’t rely on having an abundance of high street charity shop experience. Rather, to work at a higher level you need relevant work experience and an understanding of how charities operate. If your goal is to work at the head office of a specific organisation, offer your services as a work experience student or intern over the summer. You could be designing flyers, coming up with marketing campaigns or researching how policy affects how charities operate.

You can also develop experience by being active in university societies, particularly the raising and giving (Rag) society. These societies are widespread at universities across the country and often organise events such as ‘Jailbreaks’, sponsored skydives, climbing expeditions and marathons. Being a committee member of these kinds of societies will provide you with the experience and skills graduate charity, not-for-profit and NGO employers are looking for. These include the ability to organise and publicise events, raise substantial sums of money for charity and manage funds.

This will put you in a fantastic opportunity to apply for a graduate scheme of one of the larger charity, not-for-profit or NGO organisations. Graduate scheme applications will involve competency questions and you will be expected to display your passion for working for charitable causes. It’s best to get your application checked over by a careers advisor or tutor at your university.

Deadlines to consider

Charity, not-for-profit and NGO organisations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers (i.e. you!) to get involved with the work they do. For this reason, there’s never really any set deadlines to get involved. Approach your chosen organisation at any time, but be realistic. If you want a summer internship, don’t contact them the first week in June. Get in touch as early as January and as late as March. Also, get interning as soon as possible! The job market is fierce and the more experience and networking you do now, the better your prospects will be in the future.

Graduate schemes will have set deadlines and they’ll creep up on you earlier than you think; often they’re just before Christmas. Therefore it’s important that you organise your time like a military operation as you’ll be juggling final essay and dissertation deadlines with job applications and careers service appointments.

If you don’t think a graduate scheme is for you, keep an eye out for entry level jobs, most of which will have specific deadlines.

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