As the largest generations since the Baby Boomers, some of us are just graduating, while others are more than fifteen years out of university. If we’re in a corporate, we’re on the path to management, or we’ve quit to start our own companies. We’re seeking career tracks that will allow us to have a sense of purpose, to be distinctive, and to carry responsibility for creative and innovative thinking. Alongside our career demands, we want to be engaged in our communities, and to have a chance to put our time and money to work in ways that make a tangible difference. In short, we want to have an impact.
If you want a career with purpose, where do you go?
If you can’t get the impact you want in your day job, how do you find satisfaction elsewhere?
If you want to put the money you’ve earned to good use, how do you do it?
There are no straight answers. We might take on roles as intrapreneurs within organisations that are single-bottom line, establishing initiatives to monitor social or environmental impact of operations, or pitching new products to an underserved population. Outside of work, we might be participating in part-time venture philanthropy associations, or joining giving circles. If we’re lucky, we’ll get the benefit of the few leadership programmes focussed on impact-oriented Millennials on the managerial track.
Along the way, many Millennials are finding that “careers with purpose” are hard to navigate. While social impact and corporate responsibility agendas are not new (and neither is philanthropy), we’re finding the approach taken by many organisations can seem stale. As a result, we’re seeking alternatives.
In some cases, we’re looking for new professional experiences all-together – full-time programmes that get us out of our current workplaces and into places where we can pursue a social impact agenda whole-heartedly, or were we can deepen our knowledge of the issues that the world faces.
In other cases, we’re banding together with like-minded professionals. We’re using online platforms to share resources and best practices globally, and finding supportive communities through local impact-oriented events. Some of the more interesting communities of this sort have been founded by Millennials themselves, and have attracted interest from employers as a recruitment pipeline.
If you’re just starting out in your pathway toward impact, you need a guide. Look no further.
Pathway one: full-time programmes.
Full-time programmes fall into two categories:
- professional development
- field leadership
Professional programmes are conscious career decisions, taking the place of a corporate role for a period of time. You become fully involved in the impact agenda of an organisation, gain experience at a new firm, and/or deep exposure to the challenges of a country or industry “in the field”. The change of scenery and colleagues can provide much-needed impetus for fresh thinking about your career and values, and demonstrate how your professional skills have wide applications for impact.
The benefits can be immense, and as a result, these programmes are often very popular. If you’re considering applying, think carefully through your personal goals and what makes you unique – competition is fierce!
Here are some examples.
Professional development programmes:
- OnPurpose – Transition your career towards purpose through the OnPurpose programme, which offers young professionals two consecutive paid six- month placements with social impact funds or social enterprises. Participants receive leadership training and develop a strong network across impact-oriented businesses and leaders. Europe.
- ImpactBusinessLeaders – Advance your career with purpose through ImpactBusinessLeaders, a 7-day workshop combined with professional advising and referrals to career opportunities in social enterprise and social impact. Global.
- Aspen Institute’s First Movers Fellowship Programme – Join a renowned centre for leadership in a year-long programme that connects you with intra-preneurs, while you undertake a sustainability-oriented innovation programme within your company. Global.
- Forward Institute – An 18-month Fellowship for emerging leaders nominated by their organisations. As a Fellow, you participate in intensive leadership training and advance a collaborative sustainability agenda within your own company. Global.
Field leadership programmes:
- Acumen Fellows – Impact investment fund Acumen’s Fellows programme recruits talented professionals for a twelve-month programme, with nine months in the field helping an Acumen-funded entrepreneur solve a key business challenge. Global.
- KivaFellows – Global microfinance platform Kiva’s Fellow spend four to twelve months as Kiva’s representatives on the ground, sourcing or evaluating microfinance loan recipients and exploring issues facing micro entrepreneurs in the developing world. Global.
- LGT Venture Philanthropy Fellows – Venture philanthropy fund LGT’s Fellows spend 11 months in the field working either directly with one of the fund’s investees, or with portfolio managers at a regional level, using their professional know-how to help local ventures and entrepreneurs develop their businesses. Global.
Pathway two: communities.
Communities fall into three categories:
- professional communities
- giving communities
- skills-based volunteering
Joining a community of like-minded professionals is often the first step toward a more focussed personal impact or philanthropic agenda. Exposure to others’ values systems and experiences acts as a foil for your own, helping you figure out what really matters. Professional communities offer a chance to learn directly from others who have followed similar paths. They can also provide support for navigating complex choices and trade-offs that have to be made when seeking to develop social responsibility agendas within a single-bottom-line organisation.
Here are some examples.
- TheChanger – TheChanger is a platform for Millennials seeking purpose-oriented careers, offering career resources, networking events, and access to jobs in the charity, social enterprise and green business sectors. Berlin-based.
- NetImpact – NetImpact is a community of professionals dedicated to purpose-oriented careers, providing events, access to online resources and jobs, and running global impact challenges to stimulate intra-preneurship. Global.
- Business Fights Poverty – Business Fights Poverty is an online community of 25,000+ sustainability and international development professionals, running online challenges to stimulate innovation and providing access to learning resources. Global.
- Finance Matters – FinanceMatters helps young finance professionals put sustainability at the heart of finance, providing access to learning resources, networking events and career opportunities. UK based.
- BeMORE – Join groups of up to 10 young professionals to research and choose a charity to benefit from up to £20,000 of collective funding. Throughout the process, develop your ability to evaluate a charity’s programme and impact, and build new relationships with philanthropic peers. UK based.
- TheFundingNetwork – Join a network of philanthropic professionals and participate in monthly live-crowdfunding events for member-nominated charities. Donations pledged during the evening reveal the charitable work that resonates most with the audience. UK based.
Giving communities tend to be local, because the in-person relationship-development component is critical to the community’s success.
Skills-based volunteering opportunities:
- Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Programme for Women in Business – Help women in business in developing countries succeed, through a year-long (or longer!) commitment to mentor a female entrepreneur. Both mentors and mentors have access to training programmes online, helping them develop leadership skills in both formal and informal ways. Global.
- UnLtd Social Enterprise Mentorship Programme – Mentor a social entrepreneur using your professional skill set, providing one-on-one support or online tutorials that help entrepreneurs with anything from basic business skills to networking. UK based.
Skills-based volunteering also tends to be local, because in-person interactions can be more fruitful than online. That said, Cherie Blair’s programme has been run successfully for many years, and uses only the internet to connect mentors and mentees across oceans.
The lists above only represent a fraction of the programmes that are out there to support Millennials use their personal and professional means, to achieve the social impact they want.
If you can recommend further programmes to add to this shortlist, or local programmes to enhance coverage for your area, don’t hesitate to get in touch.