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Case Study: Nicholas Fryer

Personal details
Degree:French & International Relations Profile picture
School(s): School of International Relations, School of Modern Languages
Year of Graduation:Jun-2010
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Charityworks Graduate Scheme, with a placement at Advance Housing & Support
Job title: Development Coordinator
Occupational Sector: Not for profit
What has been your route to getting your current position?
Between graduation in mid-2010 and joining the Charityworks Graduate Scheme in September 2012, I spent 18 months interning, volunteering and working in non-profit organisations.  This involved an internship with an NGO in the Middle East, where my family were, then a year in Canada on a working holiday visa, volunteering and working for the Canadian Red Cross, before coming back to the UK and temping in a charity for a few months until I got a place on the graduate scheme.
What does your job involve ?
The Charityworks Graduate Scheme involves a year-long work placement in a non-profit organisation, with training days once or twice a month when participants come together to listen to presentations from external speakers and lead group exercises or give presentations themselves.  Participants are assigned a mentor from a 3rd sector organisation and have to complete a number of research assignments during the year.

My placement is in the Development team of Advance, a Housing Association which supports people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. We provide accommodation, support, and assistance with finding and remaining in work. The team helps Advance grow by identifying and developing new areas of work. For me, that means working on projects with others in my team and across the organisation, researching new areas of work and what other organisations are doing, and analysing our current service delivery and relationships with partner organisations.
What are the best bits of your job ?

The people I work with and for are probably the best bit of my job, whether the beneficiaries/clients/customers (different organisations use different names) or my colleagues, skilled and values-driven people who have chosen to work in the sector.

The great thing about the Charityworks programme is that you are part of a group of motivated people going through similar experiences starting work in 3rd sector organisations. From this, you gain an insight into different organisations and the beginnings of a professional network. The programme’s presentations from external contributors are also excellent, allowing you to develop knowledge about a range of areas in the sector. Having a mentor with significant career experience in the sector is also really valuable.
Why were you successful?

Having experience of working on complex projects and with people definitely helped in the application process, as the online application form and interviews focused on experiences of working with others and managing projects, while the assessment centre involved some group exercises.

Being able to show a clear interest in the charity sector and to present well were also beneficial for a presentation I had to give for the 2nd assessment day.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

For me, it has primarily been skills developed during my degree, including:

  • Presenting information clearly in written documents and communications, and being able to write persuasively
  • Research skills
  • Public presentation skills
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?

Do try to get as involved as you can in student societies and activities (though not to the detriment of your studies!). If possible, try to take on positions of responsibility in these, as being able to manage projects, budgets and/or people are all valuable skills for the work place and useful experiences to talk about in interviews for jobs. If you can get this experience in an internship during the summer break, all the better.

Volunteering, interning or temping in a charity or non-profit can be a means to getting a job there, though the former do not always lead to the latter. It can be helpful to apply for roles in less well-known charities, as the higher profile ones will receive many more applications.

It is a competitive sector and it isn’t always easy to find a role. I have spent months looking for work or volunteering while supporting myself by working part-time. Try to remain positive and learn from each rejection.

Make the most of the resources offered by the Careers Centre. Take advantage of their help with writing CVs and covering letters and with interviews. You will never get a job without an interview, so it doesn’t matter how good your covering letter and CV are if you haven’t practiced the latter.

Try to be clear about your skills and your aims. You may wish to work for a specific cause, but there are many different functions within the sector, whether fundraising, campaigning, HR, finance or management.  It can be helpful to have an idea which area you have the skills and desire to work in.

Lastly, I would say be open-minded about what you are willing to do. It is good to be focused, but don’t limit your options too much or just to a limited number of household names or causes.   After all, you can help create social value and deliver positive social outcomes in many different roles and organisations, in both the voluntary and private sectors.