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How to pick a career that helps you improve the world

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How to pick a career that helps you improve the world

So, you want to help save the world.

You’ve decided that it’s time to dedicate your career to making a difference.  You’re done with jobs that lack purpose. If you are going to give everything you’ve got to work, then it needs to mean something.

Traditionally, if you wanted to “save the world,” you had to get involved with a non-profit or NGO. Luckily, the popularity of corporate social responsibility, company managed foundations and purpose-driven vision statements have changed all that.

How to pick a career that helps you improve the world

Whether your interests are close to home or across the globe, environmental or health based, technological or humanitarian, the opportunities available are endless.

Which is great news for you.

But it also means you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Finding the right opportunity usually won’t happen overnight, but with determination and commitment it will happen. The roadmap below will help you stay committed and  navigate the process of finding a “save the world” type job.

1.) Start by seeking clarity.

Its simply not enough to say you want to save the world.

I once worked for an organization that heavily marketed their commitment to improving the state of the world.  On the outside it was my dream job, the role that was going to bring meaning to my work.  But the reality was incredibly different and the work felt meaningless, because I hadn’t spent the time to figure out what meaning looked, and felt like.

If you want to work to save the world, you have to define what that means to you.

Start by answering these questions:

  • What does meaningful work look like to you?
  • Are you looking to contribute to a specific issue? If so, what issue? In
    what way? And where?
  • Does solving this issue need to be your job? Or can it be a passion project?
  • Do you need to directly work on the issue, or will you be content just
    knowing that your organization is?

Looking for jobs without understanding your own beliefs first will make the process that much harder.  It also ups the likelihood that you’ll wind up in a job you don’t want.

2.) Get to know the players

I am sick of people using Tom’s shoes as their example for the type of company they want to work for.  Yes, Tom’s business model is amazing, and they truly are using their profits and brand to do something amazing in the world.  But they aren’t the only option.

Use what you learned in the first stage to hone in on your specific interest.

Start researching this topic like its your job. Find the circles that are contributing to the issue you are most passionate about. Read their publications. Follow their blogs. Attend their events. Join their forums and groups.

Learn who the key players are and what they are doing in within the space to make a difference. Follow the leaders online, network within their circles, meet them at events and introduce yourself through social media or email.

3.) Be in the know

If you are going to move into the space, you’ll want to understand trends, challenges and opportunities.

Use technology to keep yourself up to date. Between Google Alerts, Flipboard and Twitter, its pretty easy to stay abreast on the headlines. Let’s say water safety is your main interest.  You’d want to set alerts not just for water safety, but also fracking, clean water or water pollution.  Then you might follow governmental and non-governmental agencies who work to protect water.

Keep a log of the people and organizations you are reading about; they might eventually make it to your target list.

4.) Know how you fit in

Wiggling your way into a “save the world” type job is a big marketing effort on your part. While passion is important, it probably isn’t going to land you the job by itself.

  • Know what the job requires.

Just as you would with any job, learn what experience and skills are needed for the job.

  • Pick through your past.

Look at all of your experiences, both work and non-work, and identify the attributes that relate to your desired field or job. For example, if you’re dying to get into food politics what experiences from your career managing multi-million dollar projects will help you be successful? Can you leverage your volunteering experience at the farmers market to further fill out your story.

  • Become familiar with your unique talent and skills. 

Its often hard to identify your unique talents and skills, because they are the things that come so easily to you, they don’t feel special or hard at all. But they don’t come easily to everyone, and more likely than not, they are what will make you super successful in making a difference.

  • Formulate a clear and compelling vision statement that expresses why you are perfectly equipped for the job.

(Even if there isn’t an actual job posting yet.)

5.) Communicate your intent

Tell everyone you meet about your vision and your desired job.

 

Go to networking events, schedule informational interviews with leaders in the field, comment on blogs or in forums.  Ask for introductions.

It probably goes without saying that if you currently have a job, you’ll have to communicate your interest and intent discreetly. It’s perfectly ok to express your growing interest in saving the world.  Let your boss or team know you spend your free time volunteering, mentoring or knocking on doors. You might even be working with people now, who will eventually help you step into your new job later on.  Your first priority is to treat your current job with respect. When I initially started teaching yoga while working in consulting, everyone knew about it, but they also knew they could rely on me to show up and get my work done.

6.) Attack your target.

Contact the people and companies on your target list. Use your network to get introduced, cold call, send snail mail.  Do whatever you need to do to get in front of them.

Apply for jobs. Often times, people get stuck here. They’ll agonize over a job posting for weeks, sometimes months before they take action.  Don’t be one of these people. Hesitation will only keep you stuck where you are.

7.) Don’t wait to get involved.

Start doing this work now. Try to get experience however you can, even if it means doing it for free. In the process you’ll verify your interest, develop your skills and build your network.

8.) Enlist support.

We live in the time of DIY.  This is not one of those projects that should be done by yourself.  This is a massive transition and like all big changes, you’ll want a support network to see you through it. Tap into your mentor, partner with a recruiter, hire a career coach and resume writer. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dream.

 

Throughout this whole process, never lose sight of your goal.  Our world needs more people like you. People who aren’t interested in business as usual.  People who believe they can help change the world. People who are driven by meaning and purpose. Your success will be fueled by your unwavering belief that your goal is worthy and attainable.