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News & Features - April 2012

20,000 in the red and begging to work for free

Wednesday 4th April 2012

graduation day for NGO studetsI graduated in June of last year in International Relations and Politics. Upon receiving a 2:1 I was under the impression that the world was now my oyster. Eight months down the line I am still looking for a job.

Despite having six months volunteering experience in the Third Sector, including three months working in African countries I still find myself in this catch-22 of needing more experience but not being given the opportunity to gain any. For this reason recent graduates, like me, have little bargaining power when it comes to getting paid work with NGOs.

It has become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd of applicants and it seems gone are the days of walking into an office and handing in a CV or making a phone call to ask if any jobs are available. In doing this I have, on numerous occasions, been advised that they are not able to deal with any speculative applicants and I am then directed to the job section of their website where they assure me that all vacancies will be advertised.

Moreover, conflicting advice from parents and university career advisors does little in my favour, then once convinced that my CV is up to standard, I find myself having to fill out lengthy application forms to which all answers were on my CV in the first place.

Talks of a poor job market could not be more true than when referring to NGOs as there is simply just not enough money and it could be argued that unpaid jobs are actually extremely beneficial to us recent graduates because it means that we do not have to compete with 100 other people with 5 years of professional experience in the field. But this is only the case if one can depend financially on someone else.

One route to hone in on is graduate schemes and internships (which can even sometimes be paid). Designed specifically for recent graduates in the field they often offer a broader introduction into Third sector work, which is especially good if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do (like most recent graduates).

Furthermore, there does seem to be increased attention on the graduate job market including central and local government schemes to encourage employers to hire graduates. This is something positive to look out for but I cannot help but wonder whether my only other option requires me to pack my suitcase and take another gap year.

by Leah Dembitzer, Graduate

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