All You Need to Know About Social Impact Jobs
All You Need to Know About Social Impact Jobs
Whether you are looking for your first job, transitioning in your career, or seeking ways to expand how you can have an impact through your profession, you can find purpose and value in social impact jobs. Looking for companies and career opportunities in the social impact space can help you use your skills and expertise to make a positive difference in the world. This journey can help you turn your work into a positive experience for yourself, your community, and the world. If you long to contribute to having a lasting impact on issues that matter to you, but aren't sure how to use your career to do that, we’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about social impact career pathways and how you can get started.
What Is a Social Impact Job?
The good news is that social impact jobs aren’t only found in nonprofit organizations. Simply put, social impact jobs are any roles that make a difference and positively affect society — whether locally, nationally, or globally.
Social impact jobs have a strong focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals address global challenges and are meant to inspire people and organizations to take action to create a more sustainable and equitable future. According to MovingWorlds.org, you can approach these goals in two ways: doing less harm (mitigating negative impacts of an organization) or doing more good (solving problems directly).
Goal 4 from the SDGs, for example, is about quality education and ensuring inclusive and quality education for all. Taking action on this goal can come from many different sectors and industries, not just education. Some ways to implement social impact are lobbying the government to make education a priority, starting initiatives within your organization to create more internship or work-study programs that allow students to gain hands-on experience, and working with organizations to ensure underprivileged communities have access to clean water.
Goal 9 focuses on industries, innovation, and infrastructure, specifically the push to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation. This goal requires collaboration and innovation from various fields, from science, tech, NGOs, and manufacturing to R&D, investment, construction, and the public sector. It balances sustainability efforts, business development, technology, infrastructure, and more, opening the door to a myriad of social impact job opportunities.
Corporate partnerships are a great way for companies — and its employees — to commit to social impact. By working with a company that partners with organizations that are committed to improved, positive practices, you can align and achieve your vision for change and social impact. Over the last 30 years, we have been on a mission to inspire and equip emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. We collaborate with credible and ambitious organizations that use their platforms to drive change within their own businesses and communities. We believe in focusing on areas that are at the leading edge of change, which include: leadership, climate change, circularity (responsible production and consumption), impact investing, justice, DEI, civic engagement, and STEM for good.
What Does a Career in Social Impact Look Like?
As with all paths in life, a social impact career is not limited to a singular path. Today, finding a path you love that also makes a positive difference is more accessible than ever. Companies across nearly every industry are shifting to more impact-conscious practices. Your options and paths are limitless — doing good for the world is far easier than it used to be.
While there are direct social impact roles, such as working in impact investing, you can also work in a “non-impact” role and still make a positive, lasting impact. There are opportunities to continue utilizing your skills and passions while making a difference; if you’re a graphic designer or a marketer, you can take on that same role for an impact company, such as a B Corp certified organization.
Types of Social Impact Careers
Careers in social impact include (but are not limited to):
- Charities, Nonprofits, Fundraising, Philanthropy
- Government and Public Service
- Human Rights and Public Interest Law
- Social Enterprise
- Impact Investing
- Think Tanks
- Marketing and Communications
- Sustainable/Impact Design
- International Development
- International Organizations
- Energy and Clean Tech
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI)
- Sustainability, the Environment, and Corporate Social Responsibility
Net Impact and Social Impact Careers
It can be daunting to try to break into a new industry or role, but it’s important to remember that choosing a social impact job is a commitment to yourself and to other people. Whatever path you choose, focus on making a positive social impact.
Let’s explore a few social impact roles in more depth and how to best chart a course for your career.
Design is important for making social and environmental changes. This field can include engineering, industrial or digital design, architecture, or creating systems and experiences. Careers in sustainable/impact design are vast, and you can find them in established firms, founding your own firm, joining impact organizations that are bringing in design practices — public, corporate, and NGO sectors like Dalberg Design Impact and UNICEF Innovation, and nonprofits that provide impact design consulting.
Creativity, communication and storytelling, empathy, and understanding research and testing methods are critical skills needed for a career in impact design. You don’t need a formal degree in sustainable/impact design to shift to this field; any number of design-related degrees and experiences can provide the necessary foundation to make a difference.
Social enterprise careers offer more opportunities for younger leaders, have fewer gender gaps in business leadership, and are more likely to have underrepresented population directors. Social entrepreneurship is the marriage of passion for social missions with business. You can accomplish this work through nonprofits or for-profit companies. It’s a great way to use your passion and expertise for business to make a positive, lasting impact. Degrees specific to social entrepreneurship are not required; however, you do need an innovative and business-savvy mind, hard work, empathy, leadership skills, and flexibility!
Sustainable Energy/Green Tech
One of the biggest social impact movements is sustainable energy. Using natural resources and energy consumption have a devastating impact on the planet. Unsurprisingly, the key players in sustainable energy and green tech are those with backgrounds in engineering, finance, business, and policy. Breaking into this field is not easy, however. It requires extensive networking and skill-building.
You can find sustainable energy/green tech careers in traditional energy sectors (oil and gas producers), cleantech companies (like Tesla), traditional industrial companies like Johnson Controls and GE, investment banks, government, transportation, consulting and research firms, and nonprofits.
Circularity and regenerative economy are critical to sustaining our planet and, subsequently, human life. Building a career in circularity and regeneration is an incredibly impactful way to make a difference. To find a company committed to circularity (and your own values), it’s important to look for organizations replacing the “take-make-waste system” of production and resource use. Look for people-oriented roles and inclusive companies. This objective means choosing companies that value their employees, offer opportunities to all people, and view human labor as a resource. Circularity roles come in many forms and include product and packaging design, circular investing, customer service, reverse logistics management, and product lifecycle management.
One of Net Impact’s key focus areas is Goal #12 from the UN’s SDGs — Circularity, Responsible Production, and Consumption. We are constantly working with our incredible community to find ways to redesign unsustainable systems, reuse daily products, and reimagine the role nature plays in society.
We recently announced our partnership with Hillenbrand for our 2022 Plastics & Circularity Case Competition. Through this competition, we hope to unite and inspire the next generation of innovators to rethink the challenges the plastics value chain faces from creation to collection.
Find Your Purpose
When it comes down to it, a career in social impact looks however you want it to look. It’s about finding your passion and using it to do good in the world. The former president of Net Impact’s Texas State Chapter, Nikita Demidov, did just that in 2018. He and his team won Net Impact’s 2018 Future of Energy Competition, allowing him to envision a new direction for his future. Instead of continuing his plans to work in wealth management, Nikita found a new, social impact passion and started a career in renewable energy transitions.
Blake Mycoskie is one of the most successful social impact entrepreneurs. He founded TOMS Shoes, a charitable shoe company that donates one pair of shoes for every shoe sold. He has since expanded his impact to include water, sight, anti-bullying, and birth in his company’s charitable giving. He is a prime example of social entrepreneurship — combining business savvy with social impact initiatives.
How Do I Find a Social Impact Job?
We know that finding a new job can be an arduous experience, but we’re here to help! Net Impact has numerous resources, tools, programs, and platforms to guide you on your journey to a career with impact.
Job Search Tools and Tips
We’ve curated a comprehensive platform that houses all the resources you’ll need to start your impact career search. View our tips for job search success, interviews, and the like, and browse our impact career profiles to help find your perfect fit.
Networking is a great way to break into a new industry, expand your knowledge and reach, build new connections, and unlock opportunities. Through networking, you can ask questions about social impact jobs and gain greater insight into what path would work best for you.
If you aren’t part of a Net Impact Chapter, joining one can help you meet local, like-minded communities committed to making a lasting social and environmental impact.
Joining Net Impact’s LinkedIn group is another great first step to networking and exploring new opportunities in the social impact sector.
Net Impact Programs
Our programs feature events, initiatives, and competitions that allow the Net Impact communities to work together to create a more just and sustainable world. Network with industry leaders and peers, dive into social impact issues and learn how to implement change in your community.
The Net Impact Job Board
As the premiere resource and connector for social impact talent, Net Impact is dedicated to helping people who are looking for a career with impact as well as organizations looking for the next generation of talent. Visit our Job and Internship Board to find careers and companies that inspire you.
Start Your Social Impact Career Now!
Commit to yourself and better the world by blazing your new path in social impact. You can do good in the world through many sectors, not just nonprofits. Shifting your focus to making a difference is not as daunting as it may sound, and change can happen even in your current industry or organization.
Looking to get started? Net Impact has a large network and the tools and resources you need to make a change. Visit our Job and Internship Board for the latest opportunities in social impact.