Over the next few weeks the Careers Blog will be publishing a series of articles from a Warwick Sociology graduate Graciella Martin Rijo, to raise awareness of opportunities in the public, voluntary and charitable sectors.
If you are the type of person who finds the structure of a graduate scheme appealing and would like to work in the charity sector, this might just be the article for you. Recently I spoke to Gemma, a Warwick Sociology graduate and current Charityworks trainee. For her placement, Gemma works as a Network Data Coordinator at Mind, a mental health charity dedicated to ensuring the support and respect of those experiencing mental health difficulties. Check out her story and see if the Charityworks graduate scheme appeals to you!
Charityworks is a UK-based graduate programme specialising in the non-profit sector. As a graduate trainee, you would be placed in a partner charity or housing association in a full-time role. These range from front-line services, to research and strategy. Once or twice a month, you would come together with leaders and peers across the sector, discussing and debating key issues affecting your service-users and society overall.
What might a Charityworks graduate look like?
You will be the type of person who enjoys helping others. You are flexible, driven, and enthusiastic. You use your skills to have a positive impact on practice and have a real interest in the charity sector, keen to identify solutions for issues faced by organisations.
Gemma describes her role as a Network Data Coordinator at Mind…
“My role involves collecting and analysing data from over 120 local Mind organisations across England and Wales to understand the types of services they provide and the demographics of their staff, volunteers and service-users. This adds real value to the organisation by providing a greater understanding of the Mind network, and fundamentally works towards building a stronger network for future years.”
A typical day…
“Since I am only a few months into the role, I am still receiving a lot of training. For example, I recently attended a course about data visualisation platforms which explored new ways of presenting and analysing data. My main role is working with the team to write our annual report. To do this, we consult with other teams within the organisation about the data they need and how to collect this in compliance with policy. I am also working on my impact research. Since it is connected to my job, I am able to take leadership on the project.”
Alongside my day job…
“As part of the scheme, grads conduct two pieces of ‘impact research’. This is an opportunity to spend time thinking about and working on topics that interest us. Based on a live issue, our research might help guide the charity’s strategic direction. Since my day job is processing annual returns containing demographic data, my research will seek to contextualise this information within the communities they serve. The aims are: a) to understand whether demographic data reflects the community; b) to show the value of this data; c) to understand where we best support our service-users; and d) whether there is more we could be doing.”
What are the benefits of the programme?
- “Mentor: a senior colleague from another charity who offers invaluable guidance on career journeys within the sector.
- Peer Coach: this is someone else in your cohort on the Charityworks grad scheme. They are not on the same placement, but you support each other through the process.
- Mental Health: Charities can be great at helping you to manage your mental health and well-being in the workplace. They encourage a positive work-life balance and provide plenty of resources for you to do this.
- Network: Charityworks Graduate Trainees are placed in roles across the sector, which helps you to gain contacts from a variety of charities and people in different organisations.”
How are you assessed?
“Throughout the process, you are monitored on specific criteria in a points-based system. This includes things like: self-assessment – how you think you are doing; placement supervisor grading – how your manager thinks you’re doing; and your impact research.”
How is the grad scheme structured?
“After accepting an offer, you complete the ‘placement-matching survey’; this questionnaire asks for your preferences of causes, roles, and location. You can state which is most important to you for them to consider when matching you to a placement. This is great because although this is one grad scheme, you can make it your own – your skills and preferences are accounted for when matching you up to a role.
You are then matched to a role and told about where you will be placed. You are also assigned a peer coach and mentor to build a support network throughout the process. You then write a personal development plan to track your progress throughout the year.”
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the scheme?
“It sounds clichéd, but you need to be yourself. At assessment centres, people often act how they think the assessors want them to act. In a grad scheme like Charityworks, by showing them who you are, they can find where you best fit. You should be honest and realistic, particularly with the placement-matching form; don’t say you’re willing to work anywhere if you’re not.
Additionally, you should try and get some experience in volunteering or social impact. This will help you to develop key skills and identify causes you are interested in.”