‘Getting in’ and ‘getting ahead’: routes into the voluntary sector
Leonard, Pauline; Halford, Susan; Bruce, Katie (2012)


by Katie Bruce, Susan Halford and Pauline Leonard, TSRC, University of Southampton

This paper considers various paid and unpaid routes into the voluntary sector in drawing upon ethnographic research with six voluntary organisations around the UK. These career and volunteer trajectories are seen to be linked not only to individual motivations that much volunteering research focuses upon, but also broader issues relating to specific labour market contexts, place, education and class. It considers how particular forms of entry can be facilitated by organisations, the local labour market and national policies. A specific focus is how these entries, either into volunteering or paid work, act to develop skills, which Hardill and Baines (2007) term ‘getting on’. Here it is argued that distinctions can be made between the gaining of skills and experience to ‘get on’ in the labour market and those opportunities (linked to class, education and place) that allow some to ‘get ahead’. It is important to broaden debates on volunteering to include paid staff, which Amin (2009) has done in distinguishing between those pursuing an ethical career, accidental third sector workers who become socialised into the values and culture of the voluntary sector and short-term workers who just happen to be working in the sector. In this way it is argued that the voluntary sector may offer career opportunities, but only to those with the right qualifications and experience, whereas for those with fewer skills it may be a temporary stopping point (Amin, 2009).

Katie BruceSenior Research Assistant, TSRC, University of Southampton

Katie joined TSRC in October 2010 and is working on a 2 year qualitative project entitled ‘Third Sector Organisations: Working Lives and Careers’ with Professor Susan Halford and Dr Pauline Leonard. This project is investigating how paid staff and volunteers come to find themselves in this sector, what their experiences of working in the sector are, what the work they do actually involves and also how these individual stories are related to and from the organisation within which they work. Katie has always been passionate about the voluntary sector and has extensive volunteering and work experience, ranging from mentoring offenders to initiating and running projects for rural young people in the South West of England.

Professor Susan HalfordProfessor of Sociology, University of Southampton

Susan Halford’s research explores the changing nature of work and organisations, with a focus on new information and communication technologies at work. She has particular interests in gender and diversity at work, careers, work identities, organisational space and healthcare. Susan has a TSRC project with Dr Pauline Leonard and Katie Bruce: ‘Organising the Third Sector: working lives and organisational challenges’. Professor Halford has over twenty years of experience of academic work in Geography and Social Policy. She is currently Head of Teaching Programmes for Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Southampton. She is an elected Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Halford is a former elected member of the British Sociological Association Executive Committee, and former co-chair of the BSA Publications Committee. She is an Associate Editor of the Editorial Board of Gender, Work and Organisation and has recently co-edited a special issue of the BSA journal Sociology ‘Re-thinking Sociologies of Work: past, present and future’.Dr Pauline LeonardReader in Sociology, University of Southampton

Pauline Leonard’s research explores the changing nature of work and organisations, with a focus on the implications of change for the making of work identities and relations. She has particular interests in gender and diversity at work, careers, migration, organisational space and design and sustainability. Pauline has a TSRC project with Professor Susan Halford and Katie Bruce: ‘Organising the Third Sector: working lives and organisational challenges’. Pauline Leonard has over fifteen years of experience of academic work in Sociology and Social Policy. She is currently Postgraduate Research Convenor for Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Southampton and teaches on Sociology of Everyday Life and Education and Society at undergraduate level and Philosophy and Methods at Master’s level. She has undertaken empirical research in a range of organisational contexts and has published widely on issues of work identities, organisational change and migration.

View Presentation (requires Adobe Flash)

Download presentation as pdf (2MB)


Presented at