GUEST BLOG: Using your degree in the charity sector

UoY Careers Rocket illy  Guest blog written by: Tara Protheroe, graduated in English Literature from York in 2012, currently in the first year of the CRUK’s Fundraising and Marketing Graduate Scheme. 

From English Literature to Cancer Research UK

Returning to the University of York last week, it seemed the campus hadn’t changed since my 2012 graduation. The ducks are consistently prolific, Central Hall hasn’t yet gone into orbit and the weather still leaves a lot to be desired.

Like Heslington West, I have remained fundamentally the same. But, as with the Hes-East expansion, much has moved on. I now have a grown-up job and I’ve become passionate about working in the Charity-sector – specifically for Cancer Research UK.

So, following our appearance at last week’s careers fair, I’m writing to dispel some common misconceptions about working for a charity and to highlight some of the opportunities on offer.

Misconception 1: “To work for a charity you have to have years of volunteering experience”

Like – I’m sure – many of you, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do on leaving university. My CV was well-padded, but not with relevant experience. So it was with only a basic interest in marketing and some society committee experience that I applied for a Cancer Research UK Internship.

It may surprise you to hear that we take on more than 40 interns, three times each year. Internships are offered across the organisation: from Policy Development, to Stratified Medicine, to Digital Marketing. The individual roles don’t require any previous volunteering experience, although it may assist your application.

Following my application and interview, I gained a role in Innovation Marketing. Have I any interview advice to offer? I would reiterate that researching the organisation thoroughly can really pay off – particularly if there has been an important related news story in recent days or weeks.

Misconception 2:  “The only charity jobs available are for “Chuggers”

Working on the launch of the Dryathlon™ campaign, my goal was not only to get people to fundraise, but to promote healthier habits. I couldn’t feel further from the commonly derided stereotype of the “chugger”: to work for a charity is not only to encourage donations, but also to educate and assist. One day I’d be sourcing marketing materials, the next writing copy for the website; I didn’t pick up a collection tin for the entire three months!

Misconception 3: “They won’t have a role for me”

It’s often difficult to see where your skills will fit into a charity, but many larger charities can offer a similar breadth of roles to corporations. Cancer Research UK has the financial impact of a FTSE 350 company, and the career opportunities to match.

My internship was an excellent experience, but there are paid roles available. I am currently on the Graduate Scheme – a two-year rotational programme during which you spend time in four different departments.

The Graduate Scheme is relevant to many different areas of study; our Fundraising and Marketing, Policy & Communications and Corporate schemes are open to students of any discipline. For science graduates seeking a career away from the lab, our Science stream entails working with research funding, strategy and branding. Meanwhile, our newly-established IT stream is particularly suited to those studying Computer Science.

There are many different roles within the charity sector, and they all have the benefit of working towards an admirable cause. At Cancer Research UK, everything we do contributes to the central goal of beating cancer sooner – what an excellent reason to go to work in the morning!

For Internships and Graduate opportunities visit: