5 Ways to Gain Experience in the Charity Sector as an Entry-level Candidate
As an entry-level candidate, finding a job in the charity sector can feel overwhelming. Many charities have few paid employees, small budgets and little funding for training, meaning they often prefer candidates who already come with experience. But don’t let this put you off finding your dream role in a charity. There are many options available that will allow you to show your enthusiasm and commitment to charity work and get the experience necessary for landing that first role. Here are 5 ways to gain experience in the charity sector as an entry-level candidate.
1. Do an internship
One of the more traditional ways for entry-level candidates to gain experience in a particular sector is to do an internship. In the charity sector, these are mostly offered by larger charities such as Oxfam, Greenpeace, and Cancer Research UK, but you can sometimes find them for smaller charities as well.
Internships are a great way of getting a feel for the charity sector and for a particular role, without the commitment of a permanent job. They are also valued by employers, particularly if you’re a student who hasn’t held a job before, as they demonstrate that you can work well in a more practical environment.
However, internships in the charity sector are hard to come by, and therefore applications are usually competitive. They are also often unpaid or only offer a low salary, so they’re not an option that’s available to everyone.
2. Apply for a graduate scheme
Many students pursue graduate schemes to get a foot into a particular company or sector. A degree shouldn’t be a requirement for the majority of roles in the charity sector, but if you do have one, graduate schemes can provide training and are a great way to gain relevant experience.
In the charity sector, many graduate schemes train candidates for more practical roles, such as Frontline for social work, Teach First for teaching, and Police now for the police force. They accept applicants from any degree background and are the perfect way to gain practical experience whilst also being supported along the way by peers and mentors.
Placement schemes such as CharityWorks offer the chance to work with smaller charities in a variety of roles, which can help if you aren’t sure of which area you’d like a job in. Others are more specific, such as CASE, which offers a graduate trainee programme for those seeking a career in fundraising and philanthropy.
Although graduate schemes are great for certain roles within the charity sector, they are rare. This means that there won’t be one for every cause or role that you might be interested in. Also, graduate schemes are not as necessary for the charity sector as they are in some other industries, since having a degree is not a requirement for the majority of roles.
3. Pursue remote volunteering opportunities
Remote volunteering allows you to work whenever you have the time and from wherever you are, making it far easier to fit volunteering around your schedule and to gain valuable experience without sacrificing too much.
Studenteer is a site that matches university students or recent graduates with a charity based on their skills and the roles they’re interested in. The matched charity will send a brief description of the role and the time commitment required per week, and the volunteer can then decide whether to go ahead with that charity or to keep looking for opportunities.
4. Volunteer for a local charity or student society
Universities often have charity societies on campus. The more involved in them you become, the more likely it is that you’ll be elected into an executive position where you can influence events, fundraising, and marketing ventures during the next academic year. This would be fantastic experience to talk about in future interviews.
If you’re not a student, then why not reach out to charities in your area and offer up your skills? Most charities are always looking for extra volunteers and would appreciate the help.
Volunteering can be a perfect way of showing your passion for a cause and for the charity sector in general, as well as allowing you to get a taste of what working in the sector is like. All of this will help when applying for entry-level roles.
5. Gain transferrable skills
Many charity roles are similar to those found in other sectors, meaning skills don’t need to be gained from inside the charity sector itself.
Skills gained from whatever you’ve been doing up to this point, whether it be school, university, an apprenticeship, or a job, will be transferrable to a non-profit. Just make sure to explain in your applications what you learnt and which skills you strengthened from each experience.
If you want to go into a non-specific charity role, such as working in marketing, IT, sales, or finance, you could also build your skills and gain experience by working outside of the sector first. For example, you could first get an internship, graduate scheme, apprenticeship, or entry-level role in another industry, and then transfer into the charity sector once that experience ends.
Overall, landing an entry-level job in the charity sector can seem challenging at first, due to the lack of conventional opportunities to get experience. However, don’t forget that everyone entering the sector is in the same boat, and that the usual methods used in other industries aren’t the only way. If you show a strong commitment to and enthusiasm for charity work, then no matter how you gained your skills, you’ll stand out as a desirable candidate.
And right now there are more charity roles being advertised than ever before, and often not enough candidates to fill them. So you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying for an entry-level role at a charity.