You aren’t the only one who thinks that a job in the charity and not-for-profit sector sounds idyllic, campaigning for issues that matter while enjoying flexible working practices and ‘making a difference’ to the community. There are many other graduates looking for their first job in the voluntary sector, as well as people looking to make the move from the private sector.
Few organisations are big enough to run specific training schemes. Many job vacancies are not advertised widely, especially for positions in smaller charities. As a result there is a lot of competition for jobs. However, do your groundwork and you should be able to shorten your odds significantly.
Volunteer your way to permanent employment
Volunteering is a popular way to get into charity work. It is the best way to figure out how an organisation operates and you’ll have a greater awareness of what the work will entail. It is also a good way of proving your dedication to a cause and will mean you’re in the right place to take advantage of any vacancies which do open up.
The downside is that you will not be earning any money, and volunteering for a charitable organisation doesn’t guarantee you a job with them, ever. If you’re going to take this route, be clear with yourself and your employers about what you will get out of the experience, and how long you will be there.
The majority of voluntary and community organisations do not actively recruit graduates but they do sometimes advertise posts in national newspapers, specialist magazines such as Third Sector or The Charity Times, specialist websites and organisations’ own websites. Making speculative applications to some smaller voluntary and community organisations could also prove useful.
There are specialist recruitment agencies for the charity and not-for-profit sector. Most are based in London, although they may place candidates for jobs all around the UK. In most cases you will be able to register for agencies online. For best results you should contact the agency on a regular basis to make sure they know you are still looking for work.
Internships and graduate training schemes
Work experience placements are a good way to mark yourself out as a serious graduate job hunter in this sector. The charity and not-for-profit sector is still a long way behind other sectors in terms of the number of internship and training schemes on offer.
There are relatively few dedicated internship or graduate schemes and there's likely to be competition for any vacancies. Work experience opportunities may be unpaid and any opportunity that is classified as a volunteer role is unlikely to be salaried. However, internships may be part time, so you could arrange to do some paid work alongside your internship. It is well worth sending speculative applications for work experience to organisations that do not have clearly established programmes. Make it clear that you are looking for an opportunity to develop skills that will help you in a career in the sector, rather than simply volunteering to support a good cause.