Work towards your goal

Unpaid experience is now a must for those interested in working for charities

Fancy doing your bit for the greater good of mankind, and letting those mercenary types head for the rat race and wallow in their decadent, me-first lifestyles?

Fancy doing your bit for the greater good of mankind, and letting those mercenary types head for the rat race and wallow in their decadent, me-first lifestyles?

You might think that landing a job will be easier if you follow your altruistic tendencies. Not so! Even junior level vacancies with charities can attract hundreds of applicants, many with excellent qualifications. Before you get a paid job with the organisation close to your heart, you will probably have to do some unpaid work as a volunteer.

"What many past graduates have found is of invaluable worth to their application is having been a volunteer," says Lyndsay Boswell, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising. "Hollow words, however well meant, at an interview, which aren't backed up by proof of action, won't get you far."

At Barnardo's, for example, where every advertised job attracts a large response, recruitment managers look for evidence of practical skills gained from voluntary work. Head of Communications, Diana Green, who herself worked on Mencap summer play schemes between school and university, says relevant experience will always help an application work its way to the top of a pile.

"We always need extra voluntary help in the summer and our website's 'Work With Us' section details all the different ways you can get involved."

Ailith Roberts, now a Young Carers' Advisor at a Barnardo's project in Leeds, got her job as a result of doing voluntary work with children and teenagers, for the NSPCC and Barnardo's. "When I left college, I didn't have any direct experience working with young people. The grounding I got from the voluntary work built my confidence and gave me the skills I needed to get a permanent job."

At the British Red Cross, too, volunteering is seen as a key item on any applicant's CV. "Volunteer experience would certainly stand a candidate in good stead," explains Rosanna Moses, head of personnel. "It shows initiative, enthusiasm, and a commitment to the values of the sector."

The Red Cross's 2,800 staff employees are helped in their work by 35,000 volunteers, so opportunities are numerous.

In addition to working in one of the organisation's high street shops or collecting money on an appeal day, examples include being a Fire Victim Support worker, or help people getting over illnesses or operations in the Home from Hospital service.

Jon Gater, 21, who's just finished an education degree at Canterbury Christ Church University College, is about to start a full-time job as a youth development manager for the Red Cross in the South-east of England, based in Maidstone. He puts his appointment almost exclusively down to the fact that he worked as a Red Cross volunteer for all of his three years at University.

"I started off doing three hours a week in the Canterbury office, and then became a project worker on a scheme helping refugee children. By the end, I was managing projects and helping set up a new scheme in Dover. Doing voluntary work has opened up a whole new world. Lots of people have degrees, but if you do a little bit more by volunteering, you've got much more chance."

Across the charitable sector, volunteer effort is indispensable and needed all over the country - not just at head office locations. So, there are innumerable opportunities out there for you to take that first step. And, in so doing, you'll be satisfying the altruistic impulse that attracted you to "doing your bit" in the first place.

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + + uncapped commission + benefits: SThree: Did you ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits + uncapped commission: SThree: Did you kn...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Web Developer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence