UCL Careers


Charities & NGOs Sector Insights: Skills for Social Change

UCL Careers recently hosted a workshop in collaboration with Charityworks, on ‘Skills for Social Change’. Read our summary of the event, and key notes from the host.

An individual sitting in front of a laptop and another person gesturing with their hands.

15 December 2022

Charityworks’ graduate scheme is a 12-month, paid talent programme and four consecutive years running Times Top 100 Employer, open to anyone interested in a career that creates social impact. 

On Charityworks, you will deliver a full time paid job in a partner charity or housing association and take part in an acclaimed leadership programme designed to accelerate your development, grow your networks and equip you with the skills needed to kickstart your career in the charities & NGOs sector. 

We were delighted to host Lexi Bothamley-Dakin, a current Charityworks trainee, to lead this ‘Skills for Social Change’ workshop. Lexi just graduated from the University of Bristol in June studying History and moved to London a couple of months ago. She found out about Charityworks all the way back in first year, and knew it was something she really wanted to do, to have work that makes a positive difference with the community around her. Lexi is currently working on a placement with HospiceUK in the major giving team. 

The charities & NGOs sector is wide-ranging and diverse. Careers exist in a multitude of roles such as marketing & comms; research & policy; business development; campaigns; fundraising; operations; and frontline work. It’s important you do your research to discover where your strengths and interests lie. 

Students were given an overview of the Charityworks scheme, including a deep-dive into their assessment process and what recruiters in the Charities & NGOs sector look for in candidates. Employers in the field want to know that you can confidently deliver in role, when given the right tools and support. They value your skills that demonstrate your competency and are less concerned with you having done the role before. 

Qualities and skills often sought in the sector were highlighted as:  

  • A commitment to create social change 
  • Beneficiary and customer focus 
  • Communication with impact 
  • Ability to build positive relationships 
  • Resilience 
  • Results-driven 
  • Innovative and entrepreneurial mindset 
  • Adaptability 
  • Commitment to personal development

For a wider list of more 'general' skills, visit our Skills Hub.

Students were given the opportunity to engage in interactive exercises including an ethical strategy exercise which often forms part of the interview process for not only the Charityworks graduate scheme, but for recruitment in the sector more widely. You may like to do some research and preparation on these kinds of scenario-based questions. Come and talk to one of our Careers Consultants about this! 

Translating skills to assessment can be challenging but Charityworks suggest, whether you’re applying for their scheme or any role in the charity sector, you should find out what’s being assessed: read the website, understand the values, and identify the competencies or role requirements. For CVs or covering letters, align your skills and the experience you gained them in directly to the competencies or role requirements. 

You may have come across competency-based questions in interviews before, usually identifiable by “tell me about a time when”. Charityworks recommend using a writing technique like STARE: 

  • Situation: Contextualise the situation in a sentence or two 
  • Task: What I was tasked with doing? 
  • Action: What was the action I took in responding to the task? 
  • Result: What was the outcome of my action, on the task? 
  • Evaluation: What did I learn from doing this and can I briefly evidence applying the learning? 

Lexi recommends choosing a single example when asked a competency-based question so that you can engage with a strong technique. Try to avoid reaming off a list as you’re more likely to keep repeating Task and Action only. Draw on varied experiences throughout your interviews – think of experiences from university, work, voluntary work, involvement in student societies etc. 

Remember, skills are the core of your narrative, they are what you will bring to the role but they aren’t your whole story. Who are you, why are you motivated to apply, why is it right for you now and what do you want to gain?  

A final tip – never undervalue your experiences, personal or professional! 

If you weren’t able to make the workshop, why not try these activities below at home? They are aimed at helping you to develop your personal narrative in a way which best showcases your skills. 

  1. Jot down a short “me map” covering off 3 sections: 

Your origins and influences: Where are you from? What’s your background? What has had an impact on the person you are today? 

Your motivation:  What drives you?  What are you passionate about? 

Your ambitions: Where do you want to be after university and what do you hope to achieve? 

  1. Consider the skills you have learned or developed in each of the following settings: 
  • Academic, through your studies 
  • Extracurricular, through societies or other activities 
  • Familial or caring responsibilities 
  • Volunteering 
  • Employment, including part-time work 
  1. Identify one challenge you’ve faced, or failures you’ve had in any of the settings above. 

Want to learn more?