At the 2016 Net Impact conference this year, speakers, companies, and nonprofits alike convened to discuss how people can find careers that make a positive Net Impact. It was an inspiring event, full of useful data and tips for people to do just that.
And never before have conversations like this been more important.
The vast majority of working professionals, almost 3 out of 4 employees, want careers that provide a sense of purpose. In fact, new research shows that 75% of millennials will actually take a paycut to find deeper meaning in their work.
So if you’re one of the many that are not feeling purpose in your work, how can you find a company and role that needs your skills AND values your ideals? And, in this current economic environment with a shortageof sustainability and CSR jobs, how can you stand out and earn it? It’s not easy, but it is possible. Here’s how: (1) Validate your career direction, (2) get more relevant experience, (3) build your network, (4) make your experience stand out. You can do this on your own, or you can work with programs like The MovingWorlds Institute.
Step 1: Figure Out Your Purpose and Validate Your Career Direction
“There is a difference between purpose and cause. Working for a cause won’t necessarily fulfill your purpose. The nonprofit sector is bleeding talent because it confuses causes for individual purpose. Cause is more of the purpose on the cake.” – Aaron Hurst, Founder and CEO of Imperative, author of The Purpose Economy
The truth is, most people are bad about understanding what will make them happy. This means that your “Dream job” is probably not actually your dream job. In other words, if you follow your current trajectory, you’ll likely end up in the mass of dissatisfied workers working today.
At every stage of your career path it’s important to find purpose, exercise your strengths, and work at a level of autonomy that is comfortable to you. Simply put, just because your organization creates social good, doesn’t mean that you’ll find purpose in your work there. Dan Pink calls this finding your drive. As Imperative.com shares, purpose oriented people add the most value. To get a better understanding of you and your teammates purpose profile, you can work with your company to adopt the Imperative assessment to learn more.
On a more personal level, to help figure out what moves you, it’s critical to map out your assumptions, and then validate those assumptions by researching, experimenting, and networking. This article about using lean startup principles to validate your career choice will help you walk through your For-good career validation board below
Step 2: Get More Experience to Build Your Skills
“Any employer, especially those with programs that contribute to environmental and social good, aren’t just looking for a candidate with the right skills. They want to know you’ve spent time in the field working on social change issues – and proof that you’ve made an impact there.” – Aaron Hurst, Founder and CEO of Imperative, author of The Purpose Economy
Indeed, research shows that employers are increasingly searching for people with relevant experience, not just education. However, finding stretch experiences to grow at your current company isn’t always possible. However, considering a lack of access to expertise is one of the leading barriers to progress globally, there is no shortage of projects to support resource-strapped organizations, if you know where to look.
However, don’t just jump at the first opportunity you find. First, figure out what moves you and what skills you need to develop to qualify for a job at the industry and company you want to be at. Then, preferably with the help of your manager, a mentor, or a formal coach, identify the parts of your profile where you need to stretch yourself and grow. Then, find a skills-based volunteer experience in that role. The following table shows you skills you can develop by volunteering, and where you can go to find relevant projects.
Step 3: Build Your Network for Insider Connections
There are no shortcuts here. Some reports show that 80% of jobs are never even posted before they are matched. That’s why you need to build out your network – and fast. Coffee chats, skills-based volunteering, giving circles, and ongoing education are great ways to build your network. But, as with experience building, be intentional about the type of networking you do. What’s the best way to build a purposeful network? Read Adam Grant’s inspiring book Give & Take.
Step 4: Stand Out in the Job Hunt
Once you have new experiences, it’s important to talk about them the right way. All too often I see people misrepresent their past experiences with disconnected storylines, poor descriptions, or improper categorization. As an example, a volunteer project, provided it’s a skills-based project as described above, belongs as a “Pro Bono Consulting” or “Experteering Project” on your resume, not just “volunteer experience”. From there, you should talk about your experience in a way that proves your ability to create impact.In the second half of this webinar with Net Impact, MovingWorlds, and Walk of Life Consulting, career coach Shannon Houde shared some valuable tips for talking about your previous experience in a way that can help you earn your next job.It’s well known that recruiters and hiring managers will spend less than 40 seconds on your resume, often just 20 seconds. Even less time will be spent on your LinkedIn profile. In the social impact industry, roles are even more competitive. Shannon recommends using the popular STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Or, to use her words that she shared in Triple Pundit, you want to share The Wow, The So What, The Where/When, and then The How. This blog post provides more specific resume and LinkedIn profile tips with examples.
We know this is a hard path, it takes time, and it takes a lot of work, but the prize is a fulfilling career that makes you and the world better. There are no shortcuts here, but it’s why Net Impact exists and why we launched the MovingWorlds Institute and I hope you’ll check both out.