If you're like most students, you may have no idea what you want to do after you graduate. It's a big question. How about if we ask what you're passionate about? What sort of impact would you like to have on the world? What would you like to change about your community? If these questions are easier to answer, you may want to consider working in the third sector.

What is the third sector?

The job market is primarily divided into two different areas or sectors, public and private. Put simply, public sector employees work for governmental agencies. A few examples include education, healthcare, the armed forces and emergency services. The private sector includes all work that is for non-governmental agencies, such as law firms, estate agencies, in veterinary care, and hospitality.

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Work in the third sector is 'values-driven'

The third sector, otherwise known as the voluntary or charity sector is used to describe organisations and employees who don't fit into the public/private binary. Third sector roles are 'values-driven,' which means they have a goal beyond maximising profits. Third sector organisations have social action goals such as improving public welfare or the environment as their main priority, which means that any surplus profit the organisation makes is often reinvested into their cause.

What are my options?

The third sector is a broad part of the job market, so it's important to understand the difference between the different types of organisations it includes.


Charities are the best-known part of the third sector, particularly because they rely on public donations in order to sustain themselves. Charities have a social goal in mind, and fund their work through donations and fundraising events. These donations are then reinvested directly into their work. Samaritans, Dogs Trust and Cancer Research are all noteworthy registered charities operating in the UK.

Social enterprises

Social enterprises, on the other hand, sell products or services in order to fund their social action work. A social enterprise operates in a very similar way to other businesses, in terms of marketing and selling a desirable product or service, but unlike other businesses, social enterprises reinvest surplus profit into funding their cause.

The myth that social enterprises are unprofitable is simply untrue. Social enterprises, by definition, are profitable because they're entirely self-sufficient. In fact, there are some social enterprise who class themselves as 'for-profit' organisations, yet they still uphold a social mission and values, where only some of their surplus profit is reinvested.

Did you know Ben & Jerry's is a social enterprise?

A notable example of a social enterprise is Ben & Jerry's, who have a dedication to improving refugee welfare, addressing climate change, and other social issues as part of their company mission statement.

Non-profit organisations

Other organisations included within the third sector are Voluntary and Community Organisations and Private Research Institutes.

Benefits of working in the third sector

High job-satisfaction

Because third sector jobs are directly linked to helping others, it's hardly surprising that employees often have high-job satisfaction. There's an intrinsic reward of working towards positive change for your local community or the environment which just isn't available in most public or private sector jobs.

Transferable skills

Working part-time or on a voluntary basis for a charity or non-profit can be the perfect way to gain transferable skills to make you stand out in the job market. Third sector work is great for giving you skills that employers look for. For example, charity work can help improve your communication skills, ability to work under pressure and solve problems, as well as your budgeting and fundraising skills.

Working for a non-profit can give you transferable skills and experience to help you get a job later on

Working for a non-profit with a charitable mission statement also shows future employers that you care about your community and the welfare of others. By extension, this means that you'll be likely to contribute positively to the workplace culture and be team-orientated, which is something most employers are looking for.

Flexible work

Non-profits and charities need individuals who are passionate about their cause and are dedicated to working towards it, which means they often offer flexible working hours to their employees.

Some organisations may offer part-time or remote working opportunities, as well as employing several full-time members of staff. Often, the standard working pattern is regular office hours, but depending on the needs of the organisation, employees may need to attend events after hours or during weekends.

Finding your passion

The third sector needs people with a wide variety of skills to coordinate the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes work behind each big (or small!) event. Fundraising isn't the only role available in the charity sector, as most organisations offer jobs in marketing, project management, administration, research, accounting, and education.

Tattooed woman with laptop
Working in the third sector could help you find your dream job

If you're unsure what type of job you'd like to go into, the third sector is a great place to start! Often, third sector organisations are smaller workplaces, which means that it's easier to transfer between job roles, and try out different areas of employment.

Get involved

Think that work in the third sector is for you? We offer a several projects for students to get involved and learn more about social enterprise and non-profits.


Pioneer is a six-week course to get you thinking about social enterprises, and how you can generate positive social or environmental change. The course includes sessions detailing project management, communications and marketing as well as impact analysis.

Social Innovation Programme

The Social Innovation Programme (or SIP for short) is an opportunity for students to address real-life challenges faced by a local non-profit organisations, and act as external consultants to propose and implement an innovative solution to a problem. No prior experience is required to join, as we provide full training. The deadline to apply for SIP is Monday 25th November 2019.

Apply now for SIP in January 2020.

Try It Awards

If you already have an idea for a social enterprise, you apply to the Try It Awards for practical support, tips and advice towards making your idea a reality, plus up to £500 to fund it.

If you'd like to find out more about how Winchester Hub can help you get into third sector employment, please email Liz, our social enterprise and innovation officer: [email protected]