My article for SocialChange.is:
You’ve decided you want to shift career fields to work in social innovation. But your current job has little or no overlap with the social sector. How do you make the switch? Here are eight approaches you can use to help you make the move and land a social innovation job.
Have a story. You need a concise, compelling story about your career change. Why are you interested in social innovation? Why do you want to switch fields, and why now? Why are you attracted to the mission of the organizations to which you are applying? Make sure you really understand why you want to make the move, and that you are ready for the changes it may bring in workplace culture, job responsibilities, and your long-term career goals.
Volunteer. If you aren’t linked to the social sector through previous experience or your current position, you will have a more difficult time convincing organizations that you are passionate about social innovation, even if you really believe in it. To show your passion and interest, start volunteering in the social sector in your free time. Look at Idealist, your favorite non-profit, or organizations like Catchafire for opportunities. Ideally, try to make your volunteer work align with the type of organization you want to work for. Don’t think that volunteering at an animal shelter will help you get that impact investment job; instead, volunteer in financial inclusion or fundraising.
Live Abroad. For internationally-focused social enterprises, experience working and living abroad is a must. If you haven’t already spent significant time abroad, find opportunities through service organizations or fellowships to spend time in the developing world. You’ll grow personally and professionally, and come back with a wealth of perspective and experience. Or maybe you’ll even find a job or start a new venture abroad.
Become a social entrepreneur. Many entrepreneurs think of a venture while employed and then quit to build their organization full-time. But it’s not an easy switch—you’ll need financial support and a strong network to stand by you as you embark on your solo-journey. Make sure you are prepared for the challenges, and eventual rewards, that lie ahead in this bold move.
Become a social intrapreneur. You don’t need to become a social entrepreneur to make an impact in social innovation. Social intrapreneurs are individuals that create change or launch new ventures from within large companies, or that support social enterprises in strategy and operations roles. Apply for jobs with your favorite social enterprises—they all need individuals to develop strategy, implement programs, and accelerate scale and impact. Or, become an intrapreneur at your current company. Find a way to build social or environmental value into the business model or launch a CSR or employee volunteer program.
Highlight your transferable skills. Some senior-level social innovation jobs require field or social sector experience, no exceptions. But for entry-level positions, capability and cultural fit are the real keys. Describe your strengths and accomplishments in your resume, cover letter, and interview as they relate to the specific skills that the organization is looking for, and emphasize their transferability. For example, a microfinance organization working in South Asia may need a project manager, and you’ve worked for the past two years in project management for an ad agency. While the mission of this new job is very different, the skills required to manage people, time, and resources are transferable.
Consultants and Finance Professionals Rejoice. If you have consulting or finance experience, you are actually in luck. Many social sector organizations now look for private sector consulting and finance experience to bring analytical and business-minded skills to their organization and clients. You can work directly for a social enterprise, or look for jobs with social sector consultants or impact investing firms. MBAs are also a plus, so don’t rule out a future at business school. But, this experience alone is not enough, so be sure to still show your passion for social innovation.
Join a community. A great way to find opportunities is to join one of the many communities that bring together individuals that want to make a difference through social innovation. Check out ReWork, StartingBloc, Escape the City, and Net Impact. They all have great resources for jobseekers like you looking to make a switch, and you’ll be in good company.
Add your favorite career move tips and stories in the comments!
Author’s note: To aid your search, you can find my 8 unwritten rules of job searchinghere and a list of social innovation job resources here.
Thanks to Zoe Schlag for reading a draft of this post.
How to Change Career Fields to Social Innovation (SocialChange.is)