Alice Zhao (MSc in Public Admin. and Government, 2020) studied at LSE for her undergraduate and masters degree and now works at JAN Trust, who work with vulnerable women and young people from BAMER and Muslim backgrounds to help them overcome barriers to integration and inclusion. In this blog Alice discusses how a charity internship changed the way she viewed her career.
Having finished my own LSE studies not so long ago, I always enjoy an opportunity to engage with current students as an employer to play my own small part in guiding their journeys to whatever profession they so choose.
For much of my time as a student, a career in the charity sector had never occurred to me as something for which to aim — it wasn’t necessarily what came to mind when I thought about being ambitious and using my degree well.
Inevitably, my well-thought-out plan of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do did not come to fruition and things changed. I changed as a person, my interests changed, and I decided to be more open with my options.
Now, I work for two charities, one of which is JAN Trust. I get to work at the grassroots level to serve the needs of marginalised and minoritised ethnic members of the local community, particularly girls and women, and promote their interests at a wider policy level. We work at the forefront of tackling the root causes of some of the biggest issues of the day, examples of which include forced marriage, female genital mutilation, online dangers, hate, and extremism.
I get to apply everything I learned at university in a practical way to think about how we change the lives of vulnerable individuals who don’t have a voice — and I get to see the positive impact we make, which makes the tougher days worth it.
It was through a charity internship that I discovered my passion for the sector and the kind of work I wanted to do, but I’m not sure I would have discovered this if I hadn’t had the opportunity to have a try. Only through volunteering did I learn more about the specific areas on which I now work, and the valuable work JAN Trust does. Though volunteering might not always lead to employment, it’s a vital opportunity for many to widen their horizons. A career in the corporate sector is a great aspiration to have, but it isn’t for everyone.
This is part of the reason why I was so interested in the LSE Community Engagement Programme, offered by the LSE Volunteer Centre: it gives interested students the opportunity to get hands-on experience with a charity and gain practical insight into the work that they might do in the future in the charity sector. Everyone can make assumptions, but it is not until you try something out for yourself that you see the realities of what is involved. I know I would definitely have benefited from taking part in the programme as a student if I’d had the chance.
For charities, the programme provides a team of eager students, ready to help on a project — for us, this was researching how we might improve our online engagement, both in terms of our website and across social media, and expand our focus areas to ensure we do adapt with the changing world. It is up to those of us now working in the charity sector to show motivated, ambitious university students how rewarding our work can be and why they should pay attention to what we do.
If Alice has inspired you to volunteer, check out one of our other ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. And why not follow us on Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.