In an increasingly competitive job market, it is no secret that more and more students are looking to get some work experience as a student or recent grad. It is also no secret that many internships, especially in the charity/NGO sector, are unpaid. In the UK, figures for unpaid internships are over 50%.
Many feel strongly that unpaid internships are unfair, both to entry-level employees who are potentially replaced by interns, and to those who do not have the financial means to support themselves throughout the internship period. While this is all true, there are a few good reasons to consider taking that internship in the charity sector, even if it’s unpaid. Here are three:
Internships are all about learning new skills and gaining hands-on experience, and NGOs (especially smaller ones) are particularly good for this. Why? Because there is more flexibility to work with different teams and departments and the opportunity to take on more responsibility than you would be able to in a larger, corporate-structured organisation. In addition to this, it is important to keep in mind that charities offer a wide spectrum of internships, ranging from marketing to media, from HR to finance, and so on. Therefore it is the perfect place for the inexperienced to get a better understanding of a specific role or industry, as well as for those looking to make a career change.
2. Transferable skills
Directly related to the fact that you can gain experience in a broad range of roles within the charity sector, is the fact that you develop an extremely diverse skill-set. Furthermore, many NGOs give their interns the opportunity to take professional development courses, including IT workshops, which are a great way to finally develop those Excel skills you’ve been secretly lying about on your CV! The skills you will gain interning in the charity sector will be extremely valuable to your future employers, and will make you stand out in that competitive job or training programme you are thinking about applying for once you graduate.
And finally, yes, for most people it is impossible to accept a full time unpaid internship for an extended period of time. However, in some cases, there might be a way around this. The perks of interning for charities is the flexibility of working hours and the opportunity to work part time. As a part-time intern, you are expected to work 1-3 full days a week, and there are plenty of opportunities to work from home and choose your work days. This will give you the opportunity to get a part-time job (or go to class, if you are still a student) while gaining valuable skills and experience.
Overall, there are some practical benefits to investing some of your time in taking an internship in the charity sector. Last but not least though, interning for an NGO is extremely rewarding. Although it takes a lot of commitment, hard-work, and dedication, the feeling that you are making a real difference and contributing to something good is invaluable.
Although many people decide to then build a career in an entirely different field after interning for a charity or NGO, it is a rewarding experience that is definitely worth considering. Now all you have to do is look at the Top 500 NGOs in the world and see which one has the perfect internship position for you!