1.) Identify the cause(s)/issue(s) you are passionate about:
First and foremost consider the issues that resonate the most for you.
While mission-driven organizations are interested in learning about your talents and abilities, they are equally interested in hearing about your passion for the cause.
Often typical causes can fall into one of the following categories:
- Advocacy and community development
- Arts, culture, and humanities
- Business, professional, and trade associations
- Environment, nature, and conservation
- Education (pre-K, k-12, college/university, continuing education)
- Foundations, grantmaking, and philanthropy
- Health and science
- Human and social services
- Religious and faith-based organizations
2) Research the organizations that are committed to the cause.
Once you’ve clarified the cause(s) that you are interested in pursuing, you should start to research the organizations that are driven by a mission related to the cause.
There are a variety of organizations that might connect to the mission including, to name a few:
- Traditional non-profits
- Family, private, and corporate foundations
- Government agencies
- Academic institutes
- Corporate/non-profit alliances
Create a list of as many organizations as you can who are driven by the mission you are interested in pursuing and classify the types of organizations you are finding.
As part of your research, examine the services, programs and initiatives that the organizations are providing to their communities. Begin to take note of the languages they are using to describe their services as well as the individuals who are well known with the cause.
A good starting point to learn more about the organizations that are committed to your cause might be the Foundation Center, which has offices throughout the country.
3) Articulate the impact that you want to make:
As you reflect on your research that you are conducting, begin to think about the type of impact you want to make.
Many options exist for making a contribution. Begin to consider if you are more interested in:
- Philanthropy (providing funds)
- Direct service
- Lobbying and advocacy
- Support and capacity-building building alliances within membership organizations
The socially-minded career path can take many forms, but the first place to start is identifying what organizations currently exist or where there is a gap.
4) Network with those who share your passion:
After you’ve identified/narrowed down the cause(s) that you are passionate about, iIt is critical that you begin to swim in the ponds with like minded individuals who share your passions.
Attending fundraisers, service-related events or symposiums on pressing issues for your cause can be great ways to begin to learn the players in the arena. Often, the players will come from a variety of organizations and span the sectors.
These events often provide more opportunities for authentic networking as you are connecting via your values and common interests rather than pure job/career networking.
5) Translate your abilities into terms that are understandable to the sector/organization:
As you continue to research the organizations catering to your cause and the individuals who are instrumental in making a difference in your area of interest, you’ll begin to learn the jobs, responsibilities, language and pressing issues facing the cause.
Take note of the information you are finding and begin to conduct your own gap analysis of what’s required compared to your own talents, abilities, and skills.
Take note of the language being used to begin to explore how your experience directly translates to the field (i.e., sales equates to fundraising and development/public relations can translate to corporate social responsibility).
6) Get experiences that strengthen your portfolio of skills and competencies
There are a number of ways to gain experience to begin your transition process. Two easy ways to get exposure to the field you are interested in could include:
- Volunteering at an administrative level or in a direct service capacity
- Joining a board
- Getting an internship around the initiatives that directly relate to your cause
- Volunteering your services to a non-profit on a pro-bono basis if you have professional experience in a particular field
- Becoming involved in your employer's social responsibility function's activities and initiatives if you work in a company which has a corporate responsibility function
Building your resume with volunteer, pro-bono, or intern experiences can complement your story and begin to demonstrate your passion to the cause that inspires you.
You can identify the field which aligns most closely with you interests, and build both knowledge and skills by methodically pursuing the steps above. This should give you a jump start on your new values-based career.
© Copyright, 2009, Sean Harvey. Used with permission.
Sean Harvey, MSOD, MSEd, is the Vice President of the Talent Consulting at Partners in Human Resources International.