4 ways to launch your career into the impact sector… and why now?

by Shannon Houde

For all of us the pandemic has been a moment to take stock. To rethink and reframe what matters and what doesn’t, be that our health, our families, or pursuing our passion.  

And seems it’s provided much the same opportunity for business. 

Yes, the immediate corporate response to Covid-19 and a national lockdown was short-term survival. But it’s now clear that the enforced hiatus has also led many execs to look much further down the line, and recognize that values, and a sense of purpose have never been more important.  


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survey of 150 executives by top consultancy firm Porter Novelli in September found that 

  • 88% of top executives said they understand that now more than ever, companies must lead with purpose.  
  • 71% said they never, in their entire careers, had they felt more pressure to engage with issues of social justice  
  • 74% said they felt a responsibility to hold their business peers to account on these issues too 

It’s pretty clear where this pressure is coming from too.  

In research by the Reputation Institute, 68% of US consumers surveyed said they would purchase products or services from companies with a brand purpose, compared to just 35% of all brands  

In other words, if you’ve ever contemplated a career in impact, CSR or sustainability, now is the perfect moment to take the plunge.  

To inject purpose into their business, companies will need to quickly create or grow impact-focused roles, or – at the very least – add new responsibilities to existing roles when it comes to values, purpose and impact. Already, 75% of corporate social impact professionals say they’re seeing an increase in expectations and demands from their leadership, according to a study by ACCP and Rocket Social Impact 

OK, so you’re interested. But how can you successfully pivot into a career in the impact sector? It is, after all, pretty competitive.  

The goods news is that there are FOUR simple things you can do right now to make a start  

1. Identify what you want

Where once roles in impact were cleanly siloed off into distinct CSR teams, they now touch on every part of a business, from operations, to marketing and manufacturing. Even within each of those departments, roles can be further broken down too into those that focus on the environment, ethics, or social justice. Then there are NGOs and charities that focus entirely on a single issue.  

Identifying what it is that really interests you is therefore a crucial first step. Being too broad may hamper your chances.  

For a great overview of the types of roles out there, take a look at this great resource from the University of Oxford.  

2. Map out your skills…

The beauty of impact becoming so embedded in the day-to-day operations of businesses is that the skills required have broadened significantly, making it much easier to demonstrate to prospective employers you have the experience necessary, even if this is your first role in the sector.  

But you’ll need to take time to map out your skills and consider how they could be just as useful in a sustainability or impact role.  

Articulating, positioning, and translating your skills in this way is arguably the most important task you’ll undertake as a sustainability jobseeker.  

Take a look at my article for Net Impact which provides some extra pointers on how to approach this.  

3. …Then build on them

Thanks to the huge, global interest in topics relevant to the impact sector, there is an abundance of opportunities out there to add to your existing skills and knowledge. From one-off MOOCs (massive online only courses) to part-time Master’s courses, there’s a way for everyone, whatever their time or budget, to build up a little extra know-how. There are so many in fact, it can be hard to choose. Take a look at my selection of 12 of the best courses out there for guidance on where to start.  

In a competitive sector like impact and sustainability, taking the initiative to sign up to a course like this demonstrates your passion, commitment and credentials.  

4. Know where to find opportunities

It sounds obvious, but knowing where to look for opportunities is often overlooked when it comes to job hunting in new or adjacent sectors. 

You might be lucky enough to find new opportunities with your existing employer so make sure to keep an eye on internal job listings and also flag your interest, where appropriate, to colleagues or superiors.  

But failing that collate a list of links to relevant job boards and schedule in some time each week to take a proper look through. This list from impact investment specialist Impact Engine and this from social purpose corporation Moving Worlds are both great starting points.   

If you want to dig a little deeper into how your existing skills and experience can be used to secure a role in the impact sector, then why not book in for a trial session with me? We can chat through your CV in detail and come up with a plan together on how to take advantage of this new corporate focus on impact. To book a 30-minute trial session, just click here 


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