Six Tips to Break into the Charity Sector

Written by SALC Employability Champion Beth Rutter


The charity sector is a large, diverse sector made up of so many organisations and roles you can take up, working with a variety of causes. Because of this, entry into the sector is not necessarily as linear as others, so you need to be proactive in your approach.

Here, I’ll give you six things I’ve learned through my time as an employability champion and MA Humanitarianism student, which can help you get your first job in charity.

What do you care about the most? What are you good at?

The first step, I recommend, is to take a notepad and pen or something you can take notes with. Divide it into three sections: what causes you care about, what you like doing, and what you are good at. For example, I care about refugees, I’m good at coaching, and I like networking. You can make as long of a list as you like; this is just to get ideas!

Once you’ve listed out everything you can think of, take a look at your notes and see if you can find a link between items in the three sections, and aim your search at a role that involves these elements. So, in my example, I could become an employment coach or resettlement officer working with refugees.


Get experience

Get as much experience as you can that you can translate into your job role. This doesn’t just have to be in charity, you can use your experiences from other places as well. For example, I worked as a staff trainer in a restaurant for a few years, so I understand how to coach people, I used supervisory skills occasionally, I have experience managing training records, and I conducted regular progress meetings with staff. That can be translated into coaching and people-related roles, as well as roles involving administration.

Of course, volunteering is also a massive part of this. Once you understand what causes you care about the most, see how you can get involved with organisations with that focus. Use the University Volunteering Hub to find voluntary roles, or sites like Do IT, or even volunteer abroad.

You can also opt to take up an internship while you’re in university or just after you graduate. Many organisations run these programmes; for example, I have a friend who graduated last year who just completed an internship with Islamic Relief. You can also look for internships through CharityWorks.

Another good idea is to upskill. Charities are particularly interested in recruiting people who are bi or multi-lingual, so learn a language. Learn how to use GIS or creative computer software like Photoshop and Lightroom. Any skills you can think of!


Networking is important in every sector, but even more so in charity! You can do this in so many ways. The university regularly holds events with alumni and people working in the sector, both in person and on Zoom. Keep an eye out for announcements and come to those events and speak to people there. You can also go to events in the community, for example in community centres, like Rethink Rebuild Society in Levenshulme or the Ukrainian Family Hub in Warrington and talk to event organisers and people attending the events.

Networking online is also a great way to get your name out there. Create a LinkedIn profile (you can get help with this using the university’s LinkedIn Academy Toolkit or speaking to someone from the careers service), and follow organisations you resonate with on there, as well as people who work in those organisations and your classmates, and people you meet at events. You can join LinkedIn groups and your school may have one. If you study at HCRI, you can join the HCRI alumni network, where they regularly post job listings.

In some cases, speculative job applications might come in handy. This is where you approach an employer to ask them whether they would consider offering you an opportunity when they’re not outwardly advertising a role. You can find information on how to do this on the ‘speculative job search’ section on the university’s careers website.

Know where to look

Because of the diversity of the sector, you can find jobs in so many places, including LinkedIn and CareerConnect. There are also jobsites specifically tailored to those looking for jobs in charity, including CharityJob and ReliefWeb. Charities often advertise on their own websites, so keep an eye on those. Sometimes, you may hear about roles through word of mouth as well, which is another reason networking is so important!

Be realistic

While there is a large range of opportunity, you also need to be realistic with yourself. The charity sector is not well known for paying high wages and good job security (however it is getting better!), so don’t expect to walk into a job that pays 30k straight out of university.

You may not even land a charity job straight away. If you are really struggling, find a job in another sector that uses the skills you have and want to develop, and keep trying to find a charity role while you’re in that job. As nasty as the job market is at the moment, you want to at least be in some form of work if you can find it.

You also can’t expect to land your dream job straight away. If you do manage to find a job in the charity sector, you will probably find something quite basic and entry-level at first, then find roles like you are looking for as you develop your skills and get experience.

My best advice is to just start somewhere. Obviously don’t let yourself get exploited, but also don’t expect the best straight away.

Don’t give up!

This is the most important tip! Finding a job in charity may take a long time, but if you stay dedicated, keep working at it, stay passionate about what you care about and keep networking, you will get somewhere eventually!


Finding a job in the charity sector is a complex process, but, if you put the work in, network, know where to look, and develop your skills you can eventually find yourself working in a role that is incredibly fulfilling!