In recent years, the opportunities for a social impact career have undoubtedly broadened. It used to be that the oft-heard, familiar phrase, “Making a difference in what you do,” was associated with choosing a career whose social impact related to public service or nonprofits and implied a degree of self-sacrifice on part of the individual. Those career paths that did make a difference were more often than not underappreciated and underpaid. A gifted teacher may well make a difference in the lives of her or his students and inspire them to set lofty goals, but, beyond the classroom, that teacher had no say in defining what career opportunities would be available for a student to positively impact society.
Today, the opportunity for a social impact career has taken on a whole different meaning. As companies and organizations have greatly expanded, they have increasingly responded to the needs of the communities they serve—be it locally, regionally, nationally or globally. Pursuing a social impact career today offers reward, fulfillment and can very much make a difference in your life and the life of the community. Whether working in a team environment for a cause, helping people through your company’s work, or working to improve your community, country or somewhere in the world, a social impact career is one characterized by purpose and meaning. The residue of which leaves a positive imprint on that society or lays the foundation that creates the opportunity to do so.
Growth of Social Impact Careers
The growth of social impact jobs is a result of companies discovering, if not realizing, that having a social purpose along with making profits builds positive community relations, and boosts employee morale and their bottom lines. A social impact career path now exists in almost every industrial sector in the economy, public or private. In large part, it’s a response to consumer demand, which means it’s good for business. People expect companies to lead and act in a meaningful way and with a community-minded purpose. Those companies that respond to those needs will be rewarded in a number of ways. They will not only improve their relationships with existing customers but expand the customer base and enlist advocates to share in that company’s brand message.
One 2018 study found that approximately 4 out of 5 Americans—78%—believe that companies must do more than simply exist to make money. They must also provide a positive impact on society. Nearly the same amount—77%—hold a stronger emotional connection to companies with social purpose over traditional profit-driven companies. A third of Americans would switch using products made by profit-driven companies in favor of similar products from a purpose-driven company—and over a third would be willing to share that information on social media platforms.
Consumer demand has pushed the growth of social impact jobs. If you are considering such a career move, keep in mind that social impact companies need the same skill sets as any company, accompanied by a desire and self-motivation to practice “social good” in an area of your choosing. You may already possess such skills in research, web design, IT, copyrighting, engineering, finance, operations, managing, marketing and communications among other skills. Take measures of what skills you possess and learn new ones tailored to the social impact field that interests you. If you plan to travel in your career, if you don’t speak a second language, take time to learn to communicate in one. It will improve and enhance your marketability.
Next, network and build relationships with like-minded people who are already doing what you want to do or transition to. It may mean attending job fairs or networking events or researching people, companies, and organizations through platforms like LinkedIn. Networking and networking platforms allow you to gain access and insight into your field but also present the opportunity to ask meaningful questions to expand your knowledge.
Look to those companies that actively advocate and practice Corporate Social Responsibility, commonly referred to as CSR. Broadly, CSR embodies ethical business practices on a systemic level, creates jobs that have a positive impact on the community, can help spur positive social change, and are sustainable. As a concept, “sustainability” usually, and correctly, refers to a commitment to environmental sustainability. But sustainability also has implications for social impact companies in their social and business practices. For example, assuring that they use vendors and suppliers that are in sync with their business practices, philosophy, and CSR will ensure, in time, that positive social impact becomes an inherent practice for all companies.
In today’s world, social impact careers span nearly every industry. They not only benefit communities locally and worldwide but have a positive impact on those seeking a more fulfilling career and life.
If you are looking to change careers and do it in a way that aligns with your core values and brings you joy, then Core Themes might be able to help. Learn more about our proven career development program or contact us today for a free consultation.