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Top 10 insights from Charities & NGOs: Behind the scenes – influencing & policy

UCLCareers5 February 2019

As part of UCL’s Charities & NGOs Themed Week we held a panel session titled “Behind the Scenes – Influencing & Policy”.

We were joined by Jens Van den Brande, Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research, Shilpa Ross, Senior Researcher at The King’s Fund, Annabell Rebello, Job Coach and Skills Trainer at Mencap and Beth Blackmore, Operations Executive at Koreo working with Charityworks.

Here are some key insights from the event, combined with some tips from UCL Careers Consultants.

  1. Don’t be too narrow minded, learn from different experiences

A common theme was not to be too focused on one specific ‘dream role’. Gaining experience within the sector can provide valuable experience and insight that could allow you to cross over to another organisation or role. In entry level positions or smaller organisations, you are often asked to get involved with numerous projects, assisting a variety of teams, which enables you to develop a variety of valuable skills. This will help you develop expertise and give you a flavour of the different types of roles found within charities and NGOs which can help you find that ‘dream role’.

  1. Get experience that will give you a head start

All panellists highlighted the importance of gaining work experience early in your job search. Work shadowing, internships, volunteering in a charity or even joining certain university societies were all stated as excellent opportunities to gain valuable experience for your CV and may even lead to directly hearing about a paid opportunity within an organisation.

  1. You can contribute!

Don’t underestimate what you can contribute now; panellists highlighted that across the sector young people are underrepresented on charity boards of trustees. Investigate becoming a charity trustee – look up “Young Charity Trustees” on Facebook or LinkedIn for inspiration. Check out the Charity Digital Code – charities need digital skills at all levels. As one panellist said – you are the digital natives!

  1. Find a cause you’re passionate about

Panellists felt finding a cause that you feel passionate about can be crucial in succeeding with your job search within the charity sector. Employers are often looking for driven staff who want to make a real difference in the area they work. Taking the time to do some research in your areas of interest can lead to finding an organisation with goals that align with your passion and will result in you having the opportunity to work with like-minded people. Guidestar is a great resource for finding UK charities working in a particular field.

  1. Understand the sector you want to work in

Looking into specific roles that interest you within the sector can often give you the edge when applying for roles. Do some research into the organisation you want to work for. Get an idea of who their competitors are and find out how certain organisations are unique. Why is it that you want to work for them specifically? Through doing your homework on an organisation before applying you gain an understanding of the roles they have on offer as well as which positions would suit you best.

  1. Variety is the spice of life!

Many of the panellists stated that the variety within their role was one of the things they enjoyed the most. Interacting with a variety of stakeholders, hearing their stories and working towards making a difference in the lives of others was something that made their work worthwhile.

  1. Find your unique selling points (USPs)

Identifying your USPs was something many of the panellists mentioned as being particularly important and would enable you to stand out from the crowd during an application process. Having these USPs will set you apart from other candidates and focus on the attributes you have that employers can benefit from. Examples of USPs can be some particular work experience, a postgraduate qualification or particular skills you have acquired.

  1. Access support from colleagues and networks

One of the key benefits of working within the charity sector according to all panellists was the collaborative, friendly and driven nature of the workforce within the sector. Making the most of colleagues, asking them questions and tapping into their skills and knowledge can be invaluable when gaining knowledge and understanding best practice. Seek out a mentor – someone in the sector prepared to take an interest in your growth and development, who you can share your goals and fears with openly, who will be a source of wisdom and encouragement. Try the UCL Alumni mentoring database or ask around in organisations you have contact with.

  1. Funding limitations leads to lack of job security within sector

One of the major challenges mentioned facing the charity sector is a lack of funding and financial security. This can lead to a lack of resources, lower salaries, limited staff benefits and an uncertainty surrounding job security when compared with corporate organisations. Although this seemed to be a challenge across the sector, one of the panellist had a very positive way of looking at this, stating that a lack of job security leads to a varied career and therefore gaining a wealth of skills and experience.

  1. Basic competencies are key to most positions

Panellists highlighted the importance of needing to meet key competencies when applying for roles. Organisations will often outline key qualities they’re looking for in candidates, which will equip them with the attributes needed to carry out the advertised role. It is important to show an understanding of these competencies and have strong examples of times when you have demonstrated these skills. Quite often these competencies are based on softer skills such as communication, problem solving and team work.

In summary:

An organisation’s workforce will often come from a range of different backgrounds, this is why focusing on your passion for the cause, drawing from your USPs and previous experiences, along with being able to demonstrate key competencies will put you in good stead to succeed in the application process.

Networking with Organisations and Professionals

Weronika ZBenning29 January 2016

ALMOSTThe UCL Careers Charities & NGO’s themed week is approaching and we have a host of charities and non-for-profit organisations taking over the UCL Careers library on Thursday, 4th February to answer all of your questions at our networking event. Networking can be an incredibly powerful tool in your job search so it’s important that you do it right. Below are some useful tips to consider before attending the event.

 

  1. Do your research.

There will be a full list of all the organisations that will be attending the Charities & NGO’s Networking Event on the events page of the UCL Careers website, so make sure you do your research about the organisations that are attending. Find out who they are, what they do, any of their recent projects, etc. Not only will this help you build the basis of your conversation, you can impress them with your knowledge of their organisation, and remember: first impressions count.

  1. Have a goal/purpose

It’s always a good idea to set some goals before the event to help you stay focused. Think about what you want to find out at the event and the reason you want to attend e.g. finding out more about a particular role, advice on getting into a particular sector. When doing so make sure this information isn’t available on their website, meaning you will come away with some really valuable information!

  1. Prepare some questions

The key to be being interesting is to be interested. So ensure that you prepare some good questions ahead of the event. This way you can structure your conversation giving it purpose and flow and avoiding any awkward silences. In the charity and non-for-profit sector your passion is incredibly important so may sure you ask some thoughtful questions that reflect your interest. The networking event will be a rare opportunity to ask questions that you normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to ask so preparation is key.

  1. Don’t ask for a job!

Networking is about gathering information – not asking for jobs. This is a classic mistake which people tend to make and does not go down well with employers. Instead you should use this opportunity to discuss ideas and present your skills as people are much more likely to respond to your enthusiasm and understanding. Talk to the professionals about how to find vacancies and how to keep updated with their recruitment opportunities. This may help you to discover unadvertised vacancies as well as getting some tips along the way whilst maintaining professionalism.

The UCL Careers Charities & NGO Networking event will take place from 5.30 – 7.00pm on Thursday 4th February. For details of how to sign up please visit the following link: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto/charitiesandngos

 

Charities and NGOs Week is around the corner: 1st-4th February 2016

Weronika ZBenning26 January 2016

Though important, there is so much more to working in the charities and NGOs sector than shaking a tin, volunteering or delivering aid to those in need on the frontline.  Many charities and NGOs are run as professional businesses that carry out functions such as research and lobbying, as well as raising and redistributing funds.  In the pursuit of addressing human or environmental needs, the sector can be intensely competitive in terms of attracting media attention, funding and other resources.  Most non-profit organisations rely on paid staff as well as volunteers and the sector attracts intelligent people with a passion for their work.

UCL Careers Charities & NGOs Week aims to dispel some of the myths that surround working within this sector.  Through a series of four events, the themed week will provide students with an opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the the diverse range of roles available to them, from campaigning and policy work to international development and disaster relief.  The interactive session on how to prepare persuasive applications will help students to demonstrate their motivation and enthusiasm and ultimately increase their chances of job success.  The final event in the series will provide an excellent opportunity to network, be inspired and pick up some top tips from the experts, who are currently working in the sector.

For further details about UCL Careers Charities & NGOs Week including how to book:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto/charitiesandngos

Corporate Cult? We try to work with everyone.

PhilHowe11 June 2015

George Monbiot’s recent article in The Guardian, “How a corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates”, raised some interesting questions about graduate recruitment at the UK’s top universities. At UCL Careers we recognise not all organisations have equal resources, and that it is our responsibility to give non-profits, public sector organisations and SMEs every chance to promote their career opportunities to UCL students and graduates.

The article criticised several Russell Group universities and, although his researchers did not contact UCL and nor were we criticised in the article, we wanted to share what we are doing to ensure students and graduates find out about and have access to more than just City careers.

The article accused leading universities of passivity in the face of “love bombing” from large corporates, suggesting they should be doing more to counter this. UCL Careers devotes considerable time and resources to initiatives alerting students to alternative career options, and encouraging non corporates to come on to campus. Looking at our events this week, we are working with 23 employers on our Global Citizenship Employability Programme, of which 50% are charities, SMEs or public sector bodies, including Think Ahead (a graduate programme for mental health social work) Ark Schools (an educational charity) and Bartonia Care (a healthcare scheme for the elderly). Likewise, looking at the employers collaborating on our Focus on Management course, these include the Civil Service Fast Stream, Researchers in Schools and Repositive (an SME working for efficient and ethical access to genomic data), alongside several large corporates. Finally, just over 25% of the employers attending our Jobs Market, are from the public and charity sectors, or are SMEs.

We developed our themed weeks specifically to raise the profile of sectors such as Charities and NGOs, the Environment, and Museums and Cultural Heritage, and to place them on an equal footing with our Careers Fairs which feature more corporate career paths. Unlike our Fairs where organisations pay a substantial fee to attend, our themed weeks are completely free of charge for employers.

This year’s themed week programme comprised 26 individual events covering six sectors, and over 1,300 UCL students attended. They heard from expert speakers at organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, the NHS Graduate Programme, the Institute of Conservation, the National Theatre, the V&A Museum, Global Alliance for Chronic Disease and the Stroke Association. Some weeks, such as Charities and NGOs, almost entirely featured SMEs, charities and public bodies, but even weeks such as Life and Health Sciences had representation from non corporates at every event.

The UCL Careers Twitter hashtag #uclinspireme highlights a range of career opportunities which UCL students and graduates may not be aware of- and where employers may not have the resource to promote them on campus. This includes a series of blogs written by people in less publicised graduate jobs including fashion PR, market research, and child safety, as well as highlighting less common vacancies such as “Epidemiology Intern”, “Content Marketing Executive”, and “Fundraising and Marketing Graduate Trainee”. Students can follow @uclcareers, or search for the hashtag #uclinspireme, to keep up to date with these.

We also make a great effort to involve charities and SMEs in our placements, internships and vacancy services. Smaller organisations are put off by fees to access university students, but are also often worried about attending high profile events and receiving huge numbers of applications, which they don’t have time to process. We set up our shortlisting service, UCL Talent Bank (which takes much of the legwork out of recruitment) specifically to engage smaller employers and bring their vacancies to UCL students’ and graduates’ attention. Since Talent Bank started, we have advertised around 175 roles for non corporates, including Rainforest Foundation UK, the Institute for Sustainability and homelessness charity Providence Row. Talent Bank is free of charge for employers.

Talent Bank is a service for all UCL students and graduates but we are also tasked with sourcing internships for specific courses at UCL, one of these is the BASc Arts and Sciences. Over the two years we have been working with these students around 65% of the internships they secured were with either SMEs or charities.

Finally, we often arrange for employers to visit departments to talk about relevant career opportunities. In two examples from this year, two panel discussions in the School of Public Policy involved representatives from Oxfam, VSO and Macmillan Cancer Support, while a recent panel event at the Institute of Education featured a large UK based charity, an international development organisation, the director of a small business and a self-employed consultant, the idea being to demonstrate to students the variety of the types of careers they could aspire to.

The Guardian article praised the Careers Service at the University of Cambridge for trying to “counter the influence of the richest employers”. It lauded their policy of imposing a fee on rich recruiters and using the proceeds to make it easier for non profits to recruit at the university. Almost all leading UK universities charge fees for recruitment services to larger organisations, and UCL is no exception. First and foremost, these fees have to represent good value for the companies who pay them or they won’t recruit here, and the many students who are interested in careers such as finance, law, consultancy, IT and engineering will miss out. That said, we consciously invest any surplus from these activities into services for all students, including the initiatives listed above.

We don’t believe our role is to make value judgements about particular career paths, and nor will we tell you that you should or shouldn’t pursue a particular job based on our own ethics. We do believe we have a responsibility to marry our knowledge of the many different careers UCL students pursue, with the availability and interest of particular employers when delivering our events and services. We hope this overview provides reassurance that we don’t just promote one type of career, but we are always interested in hearing from students and graduates if there are particular employers or sectors you want to see more of.

– Phil Howe, Employer Engagement and Business Development Manager, UCL Careers.

Considering the charity sector? The pros and cons

ManpreetDhesi22 January 2015

Aaron Marchant from All About Group, gives us his take on the pros and cons of the Charity sector. Don’t forget to register for our Charities and NGOs week starting w/c 2nd Feb 2015!

When hunting for a career, many students don’t consider the charity and not-for-profit sector, choosing instead to focus on other career routes. Here are some pros and cons about working in the sector which might give you something new to think about.

Salary

Ok, so you probably won’t be earning huge amounts of money as soon as you graduate. Starting salaries tend to average between £20,000 and £25,000. These can rise over time to £40,000+ after five to ten years, with the potential to go even higher.

Working environment

Working in the not-for-profit and charity sector often results in an interesting and varied working day. If you choose to work in a support-based role, you’ll be moving between locations and coming into direct contact with clients. This type of work will be especially hands-on – you could be working on outdoor projects or helping vulnerable members of society. Alternatively, you might be based in an office, liaising with support workers and other industry professionals. This would involve the sorts of things you would expect from most office environment, such as more regular hours.

Something different

If you’re interested in making a real difference to society, or you want to work abroad, then charity work is something you should consider. For example, if you choose to work in International Aid & Development, there will be plenty of opportunities for travel. These might range from short trips to assess a situation to working abroad on long term projects. Closer to home, you’ll be able to make noticeable differences to the communities around you.

Open to everyone

Whether you’re doing a law degree, considering a job in the creative arts, or working on a new app, there is something for everyone in the not-for-profit sector. For example, if you’ve been considering graduate finance jobs, the charity sector needs financiers just as much as other companies do. You’ll be able to put your skills to good use whilst giving back to society. Similarly, a creative student might be interested in running community theatre or putting on art events. Whatever your background, there’s more opportunity in the sector than meets the eye.

The bare bones – pros and cons

Pros:

  • Challenging
  • You can make a difference every day
  • Variety of working options
  • Opportunities for travel and working abroad

Cons:

  • Can often be emotional
  • Relatively low potential earnings
  • Sometimes stressful

The not-for-profit and charity sector, therefore, has a lot to offer. Whether you’re someone who is passionate about helping others, want to use your knowledge in a social context, or just wants to try something different, it’s a career well worth considering.

Aaron Marchant works at www.allaboutcareers.com, a careers advice service for students and graduates

Register for the UCL Careers Charities and NGOs week here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto