Looking for a job can be intimidating. Finding a job that aligns with your values can be even harder. That's why the Reconsidered team has compiled some our favorite words of advice for those looking to break into the corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and social impact space.
Effective social impact practitioners have both a strong functional skillset as well as deep knowledge of their specific area of focus. For example, my functional expertise is in strategy and communications (honed over years of journalistic training and a stint in business school) and my knowledge is deepest in the sustainable apparel and textiles space (a topic that I've explored from multiple angles for more than a decade). Seek opportunities to develop both, during school but also through continuous education.
You don't need to wait until you have that dream job. Start right where you are! That might mean joining the green team at your office, starting a blog about your ethical consumption journey or volunteering for a local non-profit. This helps you demonstrate to prospective employers that not only do you have a sustained interest in social impact — you’ve also taken action.
Unfortunately, full-time jobs in this space are few and far between, especially for recent graduates and career switchers. If you're looking for a foot in the door, explore part-time internships or opportunities to apprentice for people in the industry whom you respect. These can provide the experience and connections needed to make the full-time transition. Protip: if you're a student, competition for these roles is way less intense during the school year than in the summer.
Make a case and weave a story about why you are the perfect fit for the role in question. Do your homework about the company, and perhaps even offer some specific suggestions on opportunities you see and ways you can fill those gaps. Don’t just talk about how “passionate you are” about social impact; everyone is. Differentiate yourself by demonstrating your value from the get-go.
If you're interested in corporate social responsibility, know that there’s a whole ecosystem above and beyond companies themselves. There are tons of consultancies, non-profits, conveners, multi-stakeholder initiatives and think-tanks working with companies to drive systemic change — these will give you exposure to a range of companies, and they often have more entry-level roles available than companies (which tend to hire people with more experience and/or graduate degrees).
Truth time: I hate the idea of networking. Too often, it takes the form of uninteresting small talk, blind LinkedIn requests and outreach emails asking to "pick your brain" that you can tell have been copy-pasted to dozens of targets. Instead, I view my network-building — if you want to call it that — as making friends, exchanging ideas and exploring what you can create when you combine your talents with other people. If you're going to reach out blindly to people, take the time to explain what it is about that person's career path that sparked interest for you. If you're going to a conference, take a real interest in the people you speak with (rather than scanning the room for other people to approach — hate that). And circle back! I love hearing updates from people I took the time to mentor months and even years later. It makes me feel more connected with their journey (and therefore more likely to help them if asked).
If you're working in CSR, sustainability or social impact, what tips helped you get where you are?