Amy Cailene

Making a Difference in the World: Tips on Pursuing a Social Impact Career

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a career educator is hearing from the many students and alumni who tell me they want to make a difference in the world. In fact, around 30% of millennials identify meaningful work as the single most important factor for a successful career. Chelsea Champ Lopez (’15) is one those CSU graduates who realized the importance of creating change in the world and with it, purpose for herself. After completing her degree in Environmental Sociology, Chelsea started a nonprofit organization called Color the Camps, through which she organized an international art exchange between children in Denver and the country of Jordan. In addition to opening up the channels of communication between children on opposite sides of the world, Chelsea and her team delivered over 300 pounds of crayons to the refugee children in Jordan. Upon reflection of this experience and the purpose of her organization, Chelsea states, “If we are truly going to change the world I think it starts with the children.”

If you also dream of spending your days helping people, working for a cause, or in some way improving your local community or the world, then a social impact career may be in your future. Social impact careers are characterized by meaningful work that makes the world better. Although we often think only of nonprofits in this way, government agencies and businesses with a lens for corporate social responsibility are also places to consider working.

Here are some critical strategies that you can start implementing right now to prepare you to succeed in a social impact career:

  • Obtain essential practical experience through an internship, part-time job, or summer job with a nonprofit or social service organization.
  • Gain experience with diverse populations, such as engaging in student organizations focused on diversity and inclusion, or volunteering to serve diverse populations.
  • Learn a second language in order to interact with non-English speakers and increase your marketability.
  • Know what motivates you. There are many areas of need in the world, but which one pulls most at your heart strings? Focus on that area because your passion will give you energy and inspire you to succeed.
  • Take inventory of your skill set, and decide to learn new skills that will help you succeed in your chosen social impact field. Social impact organizations need the same skills sets as other companies, such as web design, research, management, communications, information technology, lobbying, etc. Which skill set will you bring?
  • Build relationships with people who are already making a difference in the world. Attend networking events to learn from other people’s experiences and to gain access to organizations that you may want to join. Research people on LinkedIn and ask to learn about their careers, and perhaps shadow them in their work environments. Just like any other career, who you know is very important to ultimately getting hired!
  • Be familiar with the language of the CSR Dictionary, which is short for Corporate Social Responsibility. Since social impact jobs are often at the intersection of nonprofit, business, and government, you need to understand the buzzwords and acronyms of these sectors. To walk the walk, you need to talk the talk!

There are many resources available to learn more about social impact careers, to search for jobs, and to network with those already in the field. Here are some of the best:

  • Idealist.org features job openings, internships, international opportunities, career fairs, general career content, and more
  • Colorado Nonprofit Association features job openings and internships for social impact careers in Colorado
  • League of Intrapreneurs is a global network of change makers who match individuals with experienced peers to deepen their impact

After her experience in the refugee camps of Jordan, Chelsea Champ Lopez is more determined than ever to devote her career to social change. In fact, Chelsea has recently decided to invest in a master’s degree to further her understanding and credibility in the field of social impact. After graduating, she plans to teach at the community college level to educate and inspire other change makers to create improvements in the world. Her words of wisdom to anyone who will listen are, “Find something that you are good at, and a way to give back, and do it.”

Will you listen?

Continue the conversation on the CSU Career Center’s Facebook or LinkedIn page.

About the Author

Amy Cailene works at the Career Center at Colorado State University, where she advises students of all majors and all college education levels. She focuses on assisting marginalized populations, such as students with DACA and those who are undocumented, racial and ethnic minorities, first generation students, and students with disabilities.
Amy has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Teaching. Her professional and volunteer pursuits have ranged from the medical field, to science research, technology, business, writing, arts, physical fitness, teaching, and career advising. She looks forward to using her myriad of experience to help you in your career journey!