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Three Tips to Create a Career with Social Impact

Mar 14, 2016

We spend the majority of our waking lives at work. Those hours need to have meaning for us, or else we risk looking back and wondering why we invested so much of our most precious commodity--time--without anything of significance to show for it beyond a 401K account and some t-shirts with the company logo.

Increasingly, new entrants to the workforce are seeking employers who aspire to a broader purpose than just shareholder value. In fact, the desire to work for a like-minded organization can be a more important factor in choosing a job than higher pay at a company with no aspirations to make a bigger positive impact.

Having had corporate social responsibility roles at two well-known companies, I’m often asked how to get a job that has social impact. Here are my top tips:

1.  Know your values: When are the times in your life when you felt most inspired, at your best, in the flow? You were likely expressing and living your values fully.

The key to a meaningful career is to be able to express those values on a regular basis. Get clear on what that looks like for you, and then take responsibility for creating opportunities to express those at your current job, or actively seeking a better fit.

2.  Begin making an impact where you are: What are you passionate about? What gets you fired up? How can you start making a difference and creating a track record in your current role?  

For example, a woman in my company’s finance department learned about our sustainability and community impact efforts. She noticed that her department generated weekly reports for hundreds of groups that had just one line of text on the cover page. She collected each of those blank pages and donated them to a local school each week to use for their under-funded art department. It may sound small, but it made a huge difference to the school. It also highlighted this woman as a creative go-getter within the company. She became a sustainability leader for her department and took the lead in many more projects.

Start making a difference where you are, right now. Seek out opportunities to contribute, or create them. You’ll start to build your impact muscles and experience, which will lead to more opportunities.

3.   Share your aspirations far and wide:  Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Let people know how you want to make a difference and how they can help you on your path to doing so.  

When I was in a leadership development role, I was interested in the work my company’s foundation was doing in the community and asked how I could get involved.

Because I made my interest known and talked with many people about my interest, I was eventually asked to determine how we could build a corporate social responsibility mindset into how we developed our leaders. And eventually, that became part of my formal role.

Take the long view with your work.  You are investing your time, your talents, and your life. Think about building a career you can look back at with satisfaction that you honored your values and made a difference in a way that is meaningful to you.


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