In 2014, I graduated from Warwick University with Law and a year abroad in English. But after my first year I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in the legal sector; so don’t worry if the degree you’re doing now is not what you want to do for the rest of your life! It’s only 3 to 4 years, which although at the time can feel like an eternity, continue with it, as the skills you develop will help you later on
After deciding I didn’t want to do law, I used the University of Warwick’s Careers Service and took the opportunity to attend different talks from all sectors to help me understand what I might like to do in the future. One of the talks I attended was listening to graduates who were now working in the not-for-profit sector. After the talk I spoke to one of the speakers and asked for her contact details. I then got in touch and asked if I could get a week’s work experience, which I did – don’t be afraid to reach out and make contact with people already working in the sector.
I then applied for an internship at Cancer Research UK within their major donor team as a fundraising and campaigns researcher, this was a great experience. Very different from the week I had had at Ronald McDonald House Charities. So don’t limit yourself to just contacting larger charities with internships, reach out to smaller organisations and get as much experience in different fundraising teams to understand what they do and what area you like the most.
During my year abroad, I also completed 2 more work experiences at Action on Hearing Loss and Children with Cancer UK , which was only achieved by proactively emailing over 50 charities until I had a response saying this was possible. Perseverance is so important in this sector and you need to be prepared to be patient, persistent and resilient when you experience rejection.
Before my final year of university, I did one more internship at Breast Cancer Care. Unbeknownst to me, one of the employees I had worked closely with at Action on Hearing Loss was now working there and I would subsequently go on to work at Breast Cancer Care after graduation. It’s so important that you make a good impression and work hard during any opportunity you are given, as you don’t know who you’ll meet and what that might lead to later on.
What’s also important to remember is that I was just a normal student. I wasn’t president of the RAG society or on any charity committees, I just had one goal – to get as much experience in the sector and was committed to achieve it. So don’t worry if you’re not a committee member or think you haven’t got relevant experience, reach out, ask for a coffee and show your passion to learn about the sector.
Since graduation I have worked at different charities and am currently working for The Alzheimer’s Society. The sector is one of the most rewarding you can work for and is so important now more than ever. During the coronavirus pandemic, up to 700,000 people with dementia will be facing further isolation. Nobody with dementia should be left feeling alone at a time like this. That’s why we’ve created a completely new service: ‘companion calls’. Our amazing team of over 75 volunteers are calling people with dementia throughout this pandemic: to have a much-needed chat, check on their wellbeing, and help them get the right support, and we know that we will need to be in touch with thousands of people each week.
We have also been supporting people through our online forum Talking Point and Support Line. Our website has had over 140,000 visits to our Coronavirus pages by 68,000 individuals, and in one week alone our Support line received 514 calls. We have also been campaigning to support care home residents and their families, we demanded protection for people who rely on social care and highlighted that a strategy will only be effective with accurate data. Until there is a commitment to provide daily data from care homes we will keep campaigning. The charity sector provides an invaluable additional support for people who otherwise would have no one to turn to, and it’s why it’s a sector I’m proud to be a part of.
Robyn is a Community Fundraiser for North East London at Alzheimer’s Society. She has been at the Alzheimer’s Society for one year and nine months, and before that worked at a range of different charities within Community and Events fundraising. Her job involves working with individuals, schools, businesses, groups and associations across North East London raising awareness of the charity and inspiring and supporting them to fundraise and unite against dementia.