If you’re passionate about making the world a better place and helping others, a career in the charity sector might be the perfect fit for you. However, breaking into the charity sector as an entry-level candidate can be challenging, as many charities and not-for-profit organisations have few paid employees and limited budgets. But don’t lose hope – there is a huge variety of paid and unpaid roles within the charity sector and several avenues to gain experience as an entry level candidate if you put your mind to it.
We’ve given you a head start by putting together some advice on how to break into this rewarding yet challenging industry.
It may seem obvious, but volunteering is a fantastic way to gain experience and get your foot in the door of the charity sector. Look for volunteer opportunities with charities that align with your interests and values, as this will give you an insight into what sort of charity or organisation you would like to work for in the future. Not only will you gain valuable experience and skills, but you’ll also have the opportunity to network with people in the sector, gain credible references, and potentially find out about job openings. If you’re not sure where to start Volunteer Now is the leading organisation for promoting and supporting volunteering opportunities across Northern Ireland. You can find their full list of volunteering opportunities here.
Being proactive in your search for employment will help you stand out amongst other candidates, as this shows your initiative and tenacity to potential employers. You can start by approaching charities and organisations in your local area about job opportunities before they’re posted online. You may be able to find out about upcoming vacancies by attending events and conferences in your area of interest, as well as by networking with relevant people on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. If you still haven’t fully optimised your social media platforms for job searching, here is how you can do so. Networking is particularly important in the charity sector, so. don’t be afraid to reach out to industry professionals and ask for advice or to learn more about their organization.
Be open to different roles
The third sector is incredibly diverse, and as such there are a wide variety of roles available. You might have your heart set on a particular role within the sector, but having experience in a number of roles can actually be more beneficial than specialising at the beginning of your career. Charities and not-for-profit organisations value multi-skilled employees, as their workforces can be quite small so it’s crucial to have staff who can pick up various tasks. By gaining experience within different roles this will provide you with valuable knowledge of how the charity sector operates as a whole.
Also, you might find that you’re passionate about a role that you overlooked at the beginning of your career once you’ve tried it. It’s worth keeping an open mind because of this!
Consider an internship
This is an excellent way of gaining entry level experience within the charity sector if you're a recent graduate or have limited professional experience. Internships are quite common within the third sector, with larger charities such as Oxfam and Cancer Research offering multiple internship opportunities each year. Though internships offer a great insight into a charity’s operations, they are often quite competitive and offer a low if not non-existent salary.
Overall, scoring a job in the charity sector can seem challenging for entry-level candidates. Remember that the process will take time, whether you’re volunteering or trying to build up your industry network. If you remain enthusiastic and proactive throughout your job search you will surely stand out to potential employers as a desirable candidate. Good luck!
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