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Pursuing a Career in Social Change? Find Inspiration and Advice from Emerging Leaders

The blog was compiled by Victoria Chames, who was formerly an Associate Content Strategist at Net Impact. She is now a Freelance Consultant. The post was originally written in 2017 and the content continues to be very relevant for the 2020s.

There are many ways to turn your passion for social change into life-changing action including volunteering, joining a like-minded organization, or working professionally in the field.

If pursuing a career in the social sector is right for you, the next step is getting hired, but we all know that can be a daunting challenge. To help you find inspiration and advice, we reached out to our Net Impact members who are working for social change and this is what they had to say.

Sarah Spoto is a Net Impact Healthy Food Fellow and the Co-Founder of Oasis Foods, a social enterprise that provides affordable pre-prepared, frozen meals through vending machines and grocery stores in their local community.

Q: What advice would you give to students and recent grads on how to find a career that inspires them?

A: The best career for you will be at the intersection of your skills, your values, and your passion. When targeting companies, keep that intersection in mind.

Q: When looking to hire someone, what are some of the first qualities you would look for in a candidate?

A: A passion for our mission is a must. We’d also look for someone who doesn’t give up. As part of a startup, you will hit roadblocks. You have to be able to face those roadblocks and find a way around them.

Q: What tips can you offer for job seekers wanting to work for social change?

Stay focused on your goals. It can be difficult to see your friends and classmates taking more traditional career paths, especially in business school, but if you are really passionate about working for social change make it a priority.
Cuong Nguyen is the Director of Talent and Operations at Net Impact, an organization that mobilizes new generations to use their skills and careers to drive transformational social and environmental change.

Q: Can you outline your career path that led you to your current role?

A: Whether it was my time spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras or when I was living in New York helping an elected official run his office, I knew I was always passionate about trying to use business to make an impact. Working for a nonprofit seemed like a marriage of both worlds.

Q: When going through the hiring process, what are some of the first qualities you look for in a candidate?

A: I look for enthusiasm, so be excited, be prepared, bring your resume – all those soft things build a perception of how you see yourself and how you want to present yourself and it goes a long way.

Q: What is your favorite interview question to ask?
A: If you had a million dollars how would you use that to start your own business?
Ann Davis is the Co-Founder and CEO of Venture with Impact, a social enterprise that organizes accommodation and volunteer experiences to expose professionals to new cultures and ideas so that they may be more informed and empathetic world citizens and provide a positive social impact.

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to work for social change?

A: In college I exposed myself to a large variety of opportunities through extra-curricular activities, which included volunteering, joining various interest groups, traveling, etc. After these experiences I realized I was most interested in the social sector.

Q: How is interviewing for a traditional corporation different from an interview in the social sector?

A: From my experience, social organizations and companies are looking for employees that are passionate about their social mission. Make this clear in your interview.

Q: Can you share any interview tips you have?

  1. Network – reach out to current and previous employees of the organization prior to your interview for informational interviews.
  2. Be yourself – a cliché answer, but I know that when I interview potential hires, I am thinking about how they are portraying themselves and if they would mesh well with the other members of my organization.

Thank you to our Net Impact members for sharing their experiences and advice, we hope you found it helpful as you pursue your own impact career. For more info on Net Impact and our programs click here

Craig Zelizer

Craig Zelizer

Dr. Craig Zelizer is the Founder of PCDN.global, which connects a global community of changemakers to the tools, community and opportunities to build careers of impact and scale change. He has strong experience in the development sector, academia and social entrepreneurship. From 2005 to 2016 he served as a professor in the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University (where he still teaches). He has led trainings, workshops and consultancies in over 20 countries organizations including with USIP, USAID, CRS, Rotary International and others. Craig is a recognized leader in the social sector field. He has received several awards including George Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s alumni of the year award and an alumni career achievement award from Central European University. Dr. Zelizer spent two years in Hungary as Fulbright Scholar and was a Boren Fellow in Bosnia. He has published widely on peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and innovation in higher education.
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