Most Wanted: Charity Careers

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Graduates want to improve the world with work in the charity sector.

Many graduates seek to make a difference by choosing careers in the charity sector, according to data from The online job board's research reveals nearly one in ten graduates registered to the site want to work for a charity. The potential job satisfaction offered by such altruistic work is a big factor for many, despite the sector's lower-than-average salaries.

Graduate Jack Burke chose a career in charity after volunteering at a soup kitchen while he studied history at the University of Manchester.

"I ran a soup kitchen underneath Manchester Piccadilly Station, serving the ever growing Manchester homeless population and that led to a paid internship with my Student Union coordinating their community action programme after graduating [in 2012]," he says.

Jack now holds a position as Senior Youth Volunteering Officer at Centrepoint, a leading homeless charity for people aged between 16 and 25. He enjoys feeling like he is making a difference every day.

"I coordinate a volunteering programme for the young people we work with, which aims to equip them with the skills to gain employment and their own home."

"In my role I speak or see our client group every day and get to see the challenges they face, as well as the positive results we achieve."

Graduate careers in charity are often varied and there is no common degree background amongst those who work in the field.

"It's very diverse," Jack says. "I work with people who have studied everything from History to Biology. But in certain areas, such as International Development, you are more likely to notice a humanities or social sciences trend."

With its growing popularity, competition for roles within the charity sector can be intense. Jack says graduates must be prepared to work their way up.

"There aren't many conventional graduate style schemes in our sector, which means you generally have to get in at the bottom of your chosen area and work your way up. It is a competitive area so experience (unfortunately often unpaid) is vital."

Although unpaid, Jack says volunteer work with charities can lead to full time positions for graduates down the line.

"Centrepoint and many other charities have a strong culture of bringing its volunteers into paid roles. Just last week a volunteer who supports one of my young people with her Music BTEC was offered a job in our Corporate Development team."

Charity work can be a demanding and Jack warns graduates need to be versatile to face the numerous challenges.

"There is certainly a 'wanting to help people' cliché which is pinned on graduates that go into charity, however I think the [appeal of the sector] is more than that," he says.

"It's a challenging environment and requires you to really think outside the box to support vulnerable client groups. No two days are the same and you get to see a bit more of the 'real world' than you might in other sectors."

The main challenges in the charity sector include tight budgets and a necessity for efficiency. Jack says charities are run like business to ensure they help those in need.

"The reality is that in order to support vulnerable people any charity has to be financially sound and run effectively, which means some business-like practice is usually a good thing."

"Charities are often seen as slow and pondering but I would put that down to lack of resources in many cases, particularly with smaller charities which can limit what they are trying to do. Well-resourced charities adapt to circumstance as quick as any business."

Jack says this means that salaries are not always competitive for graduates.

"The big struggle is getting in, as many of your first roles may be an unpaid or low paid internship which can rule out many applicants."

"Budgets can be tight, salaries are not high and we are not afforded the same luxuries that some grad roles get."

Some of the work can be disillusioning for graduates but there can also be many perks, as Jack himself has experienced.

"Once you are in I think you have to manage your expectations," he says. "People can be very passionate and then fall off the wagon when they find themselves doing admin in an entry level role."

"That being said, I have worked on events with Prince William and seen some Arsenal players cooking omelettes with our young people, so you do get the odd perk."

View Charity Sector graduate jobs.

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