Volunteering vs. paid work: which should you choose?

If you are thinking about working for a charity, you are not alone. Thousands of students make the decision to look for charity work each year, but many don’t know where to start, or what kinds of roles are available to them.

There is also a common misunderstanding that charities are only run by volunteers: this is quite simply not the case. There are a great number of paid jobs available in the charity sector, on CharityJob you can see an average of 4,000+ roles available each month!

All of them could lead to a very lucrative and rewarding career. Many graduates find that working in the charity sector suits them better than working for a private business and there are an increasing number of graduate opportunities, training schemes and internships available to students as charities seek to employ the best talents.

However, it is important to determine what kind of charity work is right for you. It may be that a voluntary role for a short period of time better suits your needs. Whether you want to learn new skills, make new friends or try something new, you can choose a role that fits you best as there are plenty of opportunities available, in nearly every category (marketing, finance, project management, education etc).

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Summer, summer, summertime…

…time to sit back and unwind??!!

By all means take some time to chill out, but sorting out an action plan for your summer break to build up your CV could be the key to getting the graduate job you want.

Graduating may seem a long way off, but any effort you make during this summer break will pay off in the long run.

Here are seven steps to future career success that you can take this summer!

  • Get your CV up to scratch! The Careers and Employability service is open all summer and you can drop in between 10.30-12.30 and 2-4 every day to get your CV checked. The Careers Award on Moodle takes 10-12 hours and will help you produce a top class graduate CV, covering letter and application form. This can increase your chances of getting a graduate job and earn Employability Points!
  • If you are unsure about your career path, then book an appointment with one of the CES Careers Advisers (also via the telephone). Careers Advisers are also around all summer long too!
  • Apply for a career-related summer internship. If you are successful in getting one, this can give your job prospects a massive boost and the edge over other applicants. Good sites to look at include E4S, Gradcracker, RateMyPlacement and Studentladder.
  • Apply speculatively to companies asking for career-related work experience. This will usually be unpaid, but can be a great way to get a foot in the door of your ideal organisation and real experience of your chosen career. Don’t discount smaller companies either! When approaching companies you will need to be clear on what you are asking for and make sure you send a CV and covering letter. The CES offers bursaries to help cover travel expenses if your work experience is unpaid, so you can still take full benefit of the chance to gain experience.
  • Get a part-time job. Even if it is not related to your future career, you will be able to earn money and still gain transferable skills such as teamwork, communications skills, dealing with people and working under pressure. Try the Kent Union Jobshop or look in your local area if you are going home.
  • Volunteer!!!! This is a great way to get experience and do something worthwhile at the same time. Employers view volunteering extremely positively and if you don’t have any work experience on your CV it can be easier to secure volunteering than a part time job. Try these websites http://www.kentunion.co.uk/activities/volunteering/ , http://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/volunteering and https://do-it.org/ .
  • Plan how to maximise your University experience in your second year. Consider joining a University sports team or society, perhaps taking on a committee role. Look into being a student rep for your course, academic school or faculty or a student ambassador.

Don’t forget to make the most of your time off and wow future employers!

Here comes the Judge

In February, I attended a two-day mini-pupillage with the prestigious commercial set Enterprise Chambers. I enjoyed an insightful experience into the law of property, insolvency and professional negligence and visited court each day. The Monday morning was particularly interesting, as I attended the ‘winding up’ sessions which included over 30 barristers each representing their clients, either to have their businesses closed, or to suspend orders in order to pay off debts. Before this experience, I had not realised that these orders had existed, but was informed this was classed as the ‘bread and butter’ hearings for junior barristers.

I also attended a pre-trial disclosure hearing where my supervising barrister argued that certain documents should be released to his clients in order to review whether a claim could be put forward. Commercial trials are very different to criminal trials – much smaller, with no jury involved and a lot more technical in terms of legal principles. I enjoyed listening to the language and different methods of presenting arguments and was surprised by how easily I followed the arguments.

There was a young team of barristers at Enterprise Chambers, and on the Tuesday afternoon they bought me lunch in the prestigious Inner Temple dining hall which was very generous, and a fantastic opportunity to ask more specific questions about their experiences as new barristers. I felt at ease and very welcome at Enterprise Chambers, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

Without the University Bursary, it is unlikely I would have had the means to travel to London and back for the experience, as for two days alone, the cost was £100. I am very grateful for the financial support, and believe this experience will further aid my future career as a Barrister.

Searching for Clues….


My mini-pupillage at Five Paper Chambers in London has been extremely insightful in terms of the Chambers’ practice areas. From day one, I was sent out to court with different barristers specialising in property and commercial law. As a result, I gained a greater understanding of Property law and Commercial law matters. For instance, I attended repossession hearings, bankruptcy, financial dispute resolution (FDR) hearings in relation to divorce financial settlements, and injunctions’ hearings. I gained a practical understanding of civil procedure rules and court etiquette. Being able to shadow different barristers also enabled me to observe a variety of advocacy styles and therefore become more confident about my own style. 

Therefore being able to spend a week within this set of chambers I am now better informed about the nature of work involved and the realities of the job. For instance, barristers often receive large amounts of work in the last minute and therefore being able to pick it up and present the case in the court effectively and diligently is an expectation that must be met.

Thanks to the University of Kent Work Experience Bursary, I have been able to attend this work experience and gain an invaluable insight which has been ever motivating and educating.

Ibtisam El Jeaaidi (Law Student)

Searching for an Internship (in STEM)

Guest post by https://www.stemgraduates.co.uk/

Internships are a good route to take to gain invaluable experience within a professional setting, such as a lab based environment. It is a great opportunity to work closely alongside individuals with extensive knowledge in the subject area and to develop your lab based skills, awareness and ability. Many lab internships, however, are very competitive and it is important to make yourself stand out as a desirable candidate. Here are a few steps you can take in preparation for finding a lab-based apprenticeship most suited to you:

Be Organised and Use resources available to you:
Internships commonly start at the beginning of the year, so it’s best to start looking through the summer to ensure a start date in September. Many, however, are available throughout the year, so it’s important to be pro-active and make the most of the free resources around you, either from your university or the internet. You can access specific apprenticeship/ internship websites which will allow you to browse through the vacancies available. Remember to look for a vacancy according to your interests – the experience will be more enjoyable and valuable if it revolves around a topic that interests you! The careers service is also on hand to offer any extra help needed in choosing or finding a suitable internship.

Tailor your CV and Cover Letter:

Before applying to a lab directly, make your CV and cover letter specific to the role you want to apply for. General CVs will not be effective as they imply that you have not done your research into the role/company. Your CV is the perfect opportunity to make yourself stand out from others applying and showcase your relevant skillset. In addition to this, mention any relevant work experience if you have any, particularly if it is science related. This shows your potential recruiter that you display commitment to the field of your chosen subject area. Again, utilize your university’s careers hub– they may offer to review your CV and give constructive advice to help improve it.

Take a Professional Approach:

After these steps, there if only one thing left to do: you need to start actively approaching organizations that may offer experience. Many online vacancies just require an application form to be filled in or a CV to be sent through email. Ensure you take a professional approach and double check for any minor spelling or grammar errors!

There are many other ways to contact faculties, such as through networking on websites like LinkedIn or Facebook. On LinkedIn, find your university on there and use the Alumni Connections tool which could offer you a list of organizations your university works closely with. You can also set up connections with faculty members, campus speakers and past supervisors that may offer advice which laboratories to approach and the best way to do so.

You can also directly email faculties to see if they are offering any internships. Compile a list of few labs and email the tutor/professor in charge. Create a short but compelling message that outlines your interest in partaking in an internship, your availability and relevant skills. Taking this direct approach could mean a higher chance of getting noticed personally by your potential employer, rather than your CV getting lost in a sea of other online applications.

Despite the competitive nature of internships, attempts in finding a lab based one using initiative and good organization should be successful. Remember, do not be put down if one faculty rejects your application – persistence is key!