How to explore social impact work while working a full-time job

Achieving Goals, Career Discovery, Career Enrichment, Confidence
08/08/19 - Alexandra Nemeth

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

You’ve worked hard to establish yourself in your career, and you like your job. You’ve put in the time and energy to master each new role, advance up the ladder, and build a solid professional reputation. So why does it feel like something might be missing?

We all want to feel like the work we do matters. Engaging in work that has a positive impact on others not only feels good, but it’s also proven to give us a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment.

If you aren’t currently getting to make the impact you want, there are plenty of ways to explore social impact work that doesn’t involve quitting your full-time job to travel the world Eat, Pray, Love style. 

Here are five ways to explore social impact work while working full-time:

number one

Become a social intrapreneur within your current company

You don’t have to leave your company to find ways to make an impact at work. Social intrapreneurs are corporate changemakers; they design and test initiatives that create social and/or environmental good, while also moving the company’s mission forward. 

Taking an entrepreneurial approach within your company is a great way to innovate for the greater good without assuming all of the risk of striking out on your own. To identify opportunities for social intrapreneurship, start by thinking about your company’s overall goals. 

For example, if recruiting new employees is a key priority, you could propose a corporate volunteering program to re-invest into the local community while at the same time leveraging it as a tool for recruiting socially-conscious talent. Another great source of inspiration is your company’s competitors in the market – what social impact initiatives are they running, and what have their results been? Answering these questions will help you identify opportunities to help your community, your company, and yourself by piloting an initiative that makes a real social impact. For more guidance, check out this complete guide to corporate social intrapreneurship

number 2

Volunteer your skills in your local community

You already have what you need to make a real social impact in your community: the skills you use daily in your full-time job. Are there any organizations in your community that you admire or that have missions you personally relate to? Don’t be afraid to reach out to them – impact organizations are frequently working with limited resources and staff, so offers of support are usually appreciated. If you don’t have an organization in mind already, check out resources like: 

Volunteering has surprising benefits, including helping you build new skills, boosting the experience on your resume, decreasing your risk for depression, and strengthening your feeling of connection to others.  

number three

Use your time off to experteer overseas

We all need time away from work to recharge and refresh. For your next getaway, go beyond the typical tourist experience and immerse yourself in the local culture. One way to that is by volunteering your skills with a grassroots social enterprise. In as little as one to two weeks, you can make a real impact through platforms like MovingWorlds and VSO International

When looking for opportunities, make sure that the work you’re doing is solving a real need. As opposed to voluntourism, which centers around the volunteer’s experience rather than the ultimate impact on the beneficiaries.

Spending your next trip this way will benefit not only the community you’re serving, but it will also help you develop leadership skills, empathy, and a fresh perspective that will make you even more effective once you return to your job. 

If you already have the vacation days, volunteering abroad is a great way to explore social impact work in a way that fits into your schedule. If you don’t have enough time off, you might be able to convince your boss to give you more time (and maybe even budget!

* Interested in learning more? Check out this guide to volunteering abroad!

exploring social impact work through travel and being an experteer
number four

Join a professional group or meetup 

One of the best ways to learn about making an impact is to connect with people who already are. Platforms like MeetUp make it easy to find like-minded people so you can do more of what matters to you. Joining a social impact Meetup is a great way to plug into the local social impact scene. It can also help you start building a network that will lead to new types of opportunities. Informational interviews are a great tool to learn more about how others create an impact in their personal and professional lives. Interviews allow you to explore different options before committing to a single one. 

number five

Start or join an employee resource group

An employee resource group (ERG) is a voluntary, employee-led group made up of colleagues who join together based on common interests, background, or demographic factors. ERGs are a great way to identify and fill gaps in your company’s overall strategy. They can focus on things like sustainability or community outreach with the support of like-minded peers. Finding other internal stakeholders who share an interest in social impact will help you source ideas from different perspectives. It also helps hold each other accountable when it comes time to implement them.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, ERGs are also good for business – these groups make sure employees have an opportunity to be heard, valued and engaged. Talk to your leadership team about the business case for your ERG and see if additional time and/or resources can be made available to support your group’s mission (and therefore the company’s strategy.)

doing social impact work that matters

In the words of Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So if you’re not sure what makes you come alive yet, try the five prompts above to experiment, network, and discover things that will light your fire.

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