UCL Careers


How to find a career with social purpose

Student Nusayba Ali shares reflections from an event that explored roles within community and outreach and how you can make a difference in your career.


3 February 2022

There is nothing quite like a sense of community and inclusion. Amid life’s uncertainties and challenges, community outreach can make all the difference to a person’s life.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having exacerbated social inequalities, the work of the Charity and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) sector within communities has become vital in mitigating the pandemic’s impacts on employment, education and housing amongst other social factors.

Rewarding and fulfilling 

Working within the Charity and NGO sector is not only rewarding and fulfilling, but also contributes to real and positive change.

The benefits of volunteering in this sector are vast, from supporting children with special educational needs, to innovating the way in which people look after their health.

Volunteering is also a stepping-stone towards working in the Charity and NGO sector on a more permanent basis. It is a valuable way of getting experience in the sector - which not only makes it easier to progress to paid positions, but also helps determine what specific areas interest you.

Finding work that aligns with your values 

Whether it’s improving access to mental health services or providing support to individuals living in deprived areas, it is likely that you will find work that aligns with your interests and values.

And if there is not a charity out there for an idea that you have, there is the possibility to create your own charity!

In fact, if you have an idea for a start-up, there is tailored support, advice and office space available at the Hatchery startup incubator, a dedicated startup space for promising ventures at UCL.

Preparing for a career in the Charity & NGO sector

In preparation for a career in the Charity and NGO sector, reflect on what you enjoy doing and what kind of work you would like to do, and apply for positions based on this.

In terms of applying for a certain position, the criteria for the position can change from organisation to organisation.

Therefore, ensure that you thoroughly read the job description and identify the skills that the employers are looking for, then highlight these skills in your CV (just as with any other job).

Employers also want to know your motivations for wanting to work in that charity or NGO, so you should elaborate on this further in your cover letter. General characteristics that charities and NGOs look for in prospective volunteers and employees are empathy, kindness, patience and someone who can challenge and question things. 

To get started on your career journey in this unique sector, make use of the Volunteering Service at UCL. This connects UCL students with community volunteering opportunities all over London. 

Missed the event, or want to recap? View the recording.