Volunteer or Intern: Which is Better for Career Development?

We’ve all come across the work experience catch-22 at one time or another. You want to progress and change roles for career development, but you need experience under your belt before you can even be considered for a position. But how do you get your foot in the door to gain that experience?


Long gone are the days where you could walk straight into an office with your degree in hand and ask for a high paying job (or even a paying job)! Nowadays, you need to put in a bit of un-paid leg work to bulk up your CV and get that experience all hiring managers are after.


Why do you need work experience?


Experience is important because it means you’ve spent some time honing your skills. Most employers are happy to hire someone who lacks a bit of know-how, but they don’t want to have to teach them how to do every little thing. That’s where the work experience comes in.


Maybe you’ve spent some time traveling or building language skills – which are valuable for your career long-term – but you’ll need to prove that you work well in a team, are good at problem-solving and have the initiative to make a positive impact on the organization. Combine that with being multilingual and open to adventure, and you’ll be an enticing future hire.


So, what options are available to you as a graduate? Work experience comes in many shapes and sizes, from the long-term internship that helps you get to know the ins and outs of a company to volunteering for a cause that really mean something to you. Let’s take a look at which one is right for you.




Volunteer experience says a lot more to recruiters than you probably realize. It shows that you’re passionate, you spend your time proactively and you care less about being paid than you do about making a difference. According to Deloitte, 82% of hiring managers are likely to hire a candidate with volunteering experience on their resume, and 85% of those will overlook resume flaws because of a candidate’s volunteering efforts. That’s because volunteering reveals a lot about your character, both personally and professionally.


As a volunteer, you’re under no obligation to be paid. Typically, you’ll be working with a charity and you’ll be able to create your own hours. Depending on the size of the charity, you’ll either be hitting the streets in your local community or supporting the team in their office. And the best part? It will give you valuable insight into the non-profit world.


You can volunteer to work with animals, help out at a local homeless shelter or even work at a fundraising event. With so many charities and causes to choose from, your options are only limited by your personal preferences. If you’re looking to start a career in non-profit, this is the best way for you to get your foot in the door. Not only will you get a taste of what working for a charity is really like, you’ll get to spend time supporting a cause that means something to you.


Career Development - volunteer
Volunteer: Do something you love, all while building your skills






First, let’s debunk the common misconception that all internships are unpaid. Although you may come across some that only cover expenses like lunch or travel, more and more companies are offering long-term paid internships that account for a city’s living wage. Generally, unpaid internships are undertaken as part of your degree, where instead of a salary, you’re getting credits that count towards your course.


However today, nearly every company offers a paid internship as an entry-level job. You’ll sign a contract of employment for the duration of the internship (which can be anywhere from a few weeks to a year), have a desk in an office and get to really integrate as part of the larger team. This will give you a real sense of what the day-to-day activities of working life entail.


Most internships vary depending on the size and nature of the company you’re interning for. Larger companies tend to have more structured schemes where you’ll have a mentor that supports you throughout all your tasks and responsibilities. At a smaller organization, you may have to look after yourself a bit more – which is a great way to develop organizational and self-management skills.


This is a great route into your working career. There are internships for all types of companies and industries covering a range of roles.


Career Development
Intern: Learn skills and gain experience


No matter the route you take, work experience is absolutely vital in helping you establish a long and fruitful career. It lets you get a feel for different working environments, which can ultimately sway where you decide to apply for jobs. So, get ready to spruce up your CV and start conquering the working world.


This content was provided by CharityJob, the largest and most specialized job board for the charity and not-for-profit sector in the UK.


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