How to join an NGO when you have no experience?
Embarking on your university studies is an exciting time, and one often fraught with activities, goal-setting and new experiences. Naturally, starting to study in your chosen field will help to start hone our focus on who you hope to be, what you hope to do and what you’d like to achieve in life – and if you’re intending on having a career that you’re passionate about and is truly fulfilling, joining a NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) may be for you.
There’s no one set definition for exactly what constitutes a NGO but it is widely recognised as an institution with a social mission that campaigns and acts separately from the government of the area within which it operates. NGOs may be registered charities or smaller grassroots activism groups, but usually operate in order to raise awareness of or combat a particular social issue or concern.
Working with NGOs can be either a long and prosperous career choice, a short-term unpaid role or a challenging minimum wage job – and how it will pan out for you is dependent on both your experience and the type of organisation your chosen NGO is. While we’d all like to believe that if you’re truly emotional invested in a cause you’ll see it through no matter the financial consequence, unfortunately, that doesn’t always pay the rent; and for most of us, a career in a field we care about it is the most attractive option.
As a fresher, you’ll undoubtedly already have a lot going on, but it never hurts to get your foot in the door in your chosen organisation or area of interest as early as possible. Instead of enquiring about full-time NGO job vacancies and future NGO job opportunities, instead consider this early interest in NGOs the first chance to demonstrate your value and commitment to them.
To join an NGO as a fresher, rather than asking about what paid roles the NGO has, request details of volunteering opportunities – and ask what you could do that would tangibly help. Whether it’s working on-site practically, helping out in the office once every few weeks, organising fundraising events or leafletting, there’s bound to be unpaid yet skill-building opportunities for freshers. Investing time into the NGO will prove your dedication to the cause and ensure that those who do work for it know who you are.
Offer up spare time
While it remains important not to detract from your studies to volunteer with a NGO, don’t forget that not of all your time needs to be spent in the library – and out of term time, building up some credible work experience can be hugely beneficial to not just your CV, but also your skillset and relevant study approaches. Offering up your spare time also shows willing to the NGO, proving further your compassion for the cause.
Meet others with the same interests
If your university has a relevant society or club, go and socialise! Meeting other people with similar interests can be great for your social life but also for your prospects in the future; as you’ll be more likely to hear about appropriate study, work and travel opportunities, and more likely to meet those working in the sector you’re keen on.
Don’t assume that just because you’re a first year you have nothing to offer an NGO. Instead, consider yourself malleable and willing to learn. We all have to start somewhere, and once you’re in at the ground floor of your chosen sector, you can start to work your way up.