In addition to your desire to make a difference, you will need to have the skills that the sector wants. You will also need to understand where you want to fit into the sector, and why – an international disaster relief organisation has very little in common with two staff supporting autistic children in one small town, but they are both valuable charities. Vacancies are rarely advertised and you will need to be persistent and creative to get in. See the suggested steps below for tips.
How to approach finding work
Get to know the sector
The list of links and resources (downloadable PDF) may help you get started with your research, If you want to go overseas, what can you do that a local person could not do as well and at less cost? This may be an easier question to answer if you are a medic, a teacher or an engineer, for example. Do you understand the difference between humanitarian aid and overseas development? Which organisations are aiming to tackle the root causes of poverty without being involved in humanitarian work at all?
Consider your values.
What is your involvement with student societies and/or voluntary opportunities teaching you about the issues of key concern to you, the challenges of doing anything about them, and how you might fit in? Which organisations fit your concerns and your approach? What challenges do you perceive with for example, aiming to help to develop a country which is not your own and where the values system may be different, or supporting parents of children with special needs when you yourself are not the parent of a child with special needs? How do you respond to these challenges? If you have clear and well-reasoned answers to these kinds of questions, you will be in a stronger position to find work in the sector than someone who has not considered them.
Consider your skills.
What are you already skilled at? Fund raising? Communication? Event planning? Research? Being able to give clear examples of having used skills like these will impress possible employers.
Get some experience.
You are likely to need to approach organisations directly for internships (usually unpaid) and other work experience – and you are much more likely to be successful if you can be clear about what you can offer and why you have chosen to approach that particular organisation. See ‘The Hidden Job Market’ for practical suggestions about how to make an initial approach. Persistence and persuasiveness may be needed!
If you are looking for experience with a local organisation, we have collected together a list of local charities.
Make the most of any experience.
Make and keep contacts – they may be able to suggest further experience, or alert you to vacancies. Get involved in as much as you reasonably can – the sense of achievement will also give you more to show off on the CV.
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Hidden job market
70% of all vacancies are never advertised, or so the story goes. Learn how to access these positions.Explore