Land an impact job you’ll love

by Shannon Houde

Earlier this year, I teamed up with Net Impact and Mark Horoszowski from Moving Worlds to co-host a webinar, How to Land an Impact Job You Love. The webinar was designed to share how professionals can find and create meaning in their career.

To build on the discussion from that webinar (embedded below), we teamed up again for this follow-up article to share even more practical steps about how to:

  1. Figure out what you want your job to be
  2. Build the network and skills to qualify for it
  3. Improve your resume and CV to get noticed
  4. Talk about your experiences to ace your interview

Watch the video embedded below for a replay of the webinar, then jump to the most relevant section below:

1. Figure out what you want your job to be

Most employees are disengaged: As in almost 70% of employees are disengaged. It’s actually a crisis. This means that 70% of employees don’t like their jobs or their employers. The crazy thing? The people that are engaged are at the employers you might not expect. People at Monsanto (80% recommend it to their friend as a place to work) are happier at their jobs than those that work the American Cancer Society (44% recommend it) or Gates Foundation (54%).


Most people make sacrifices to try and get a social impact job, only to find it doesn’t fulfill them. The result? disengagement.

I’m not saying go work at Monsanto and ignore the social impact sector. However, I am saying that you need to be careful in making your career jump into a career path that puts impact first.

Before thinking about where you want to work, you need to think about your personal WHY. What is it that you want to do, and why do you want to do it. Daniel Pink in his popular TED and RSA talks shares that people find purpose when they balance Purpose, Autonomy, AND Mastery. His findings show that instead of believing that “My dream job is at the nonprofit“ or “My dream career is to lead corporate social responsibility at Google“, you should instead say “I want to find a role where I have purpose, get to utilize my strengths while learning new skills, and have the right level of autonomy that fits my unique personality“.

To guide you through this, check out our earlier post Using Lean Startup Principles to Validate Your Career Path – this exercise will help you list out your personal career assumptions, and then design experiments to test them and learn about the job factors that will really make you happy.


2. Build the network and skills to qualify for it

Once you have validated your career trajectory, it’s important to understand that about 80% of jobs are filled through personal referrals, not through online postings. Meaning that if you want to get a job, especially at another company or in another sector, you have to work your network. Or better yet, have your network work for you.

In our own research, we found that one sure way to build your network was through volunteering. We also found that skills-based volunteering or Experteering can help you build skills and make you stand out in the job search. The Muse called volunteering The Secret Weapon that Most Job Hunters Don’t Know About.


Of course, there are lots of other ways to build you skills and networks, too. Join a local professional meetup group, take courses from +Acumen, build soft skills on Coursera and build some technical skills on Udemy.

3. Improve your resume and CV to get noticed

On average, a hiring manager will receive anywhere from 150-300 applications per role and will spend only 6 seconds scanning your CV. Therefore, it’s essential to create a compelling, relevant story that leaps off the page in order to get noticed and land your dream interview.

I frame all the work I do with clients around four key concepts: values, traits, skills and knowledge. Once you’ve identified these, you can use them to develop impactful accomplishment statements. Here’s how:

  • Define your top 5 values. These are the things that truly motivate you to do what you do. Examples: Innovation, Partnership, Accountability, Personal development, Adaptability, Challenge, Trust, Straightforward communication.
  • List 5 traits or characteristics. These are words that someone else would describe your style, or how you would describe your approach. Examples: Innovative, Entrepreneurial, Systematic, Organized, Calm, Proactive.
  • List 4 skills. These are the specific things you’ll be doing every day to deliver on KPIs, essential what you are paid to do. Examples: Raise funds, Analyze financial detail, Build teams through coaching, Improve processes.
  • List 2-3 knowledge areas. These are your specialist areas and niche issues you know in-depth that cut across your skill set. Examples: Waste, Human rights, Renewable energy, Poverty alleviation.

As you work through this you will begin to see a story evolve around your career and personal brand. You can then use these 4 skills categories as a framework to craft 12 accomplishment statements (3 for each skill). These are the 12 golden nugget achievements from your career to date that demonstrate why you are exceptional, what was the larger purpose of what you achieved, not merely what you were paid to do.

Example: Developed Payroll Giving scheme into the UK’s largest with over 47k donors weekly and won the Government’s Treasury department gold charter mark through creating employee incentives, branding the programme, and improving reporting.

Imagine having 12 such statements – they’ll not only be useful for your resume and cover letter, but they’ll be useful in your networking meetings and interviews, too.

Don’t forget to leverage MBA and master’s projects, as well as NGO leadership and pro bono work on your CV in order to add credibility and show your drive and commitment to making an impact (Here are 3 more practical tips to make these experiences standout on your resume).

4. Talk about your experiences to ace your interview

Another benefit to the values, traits, skills and knowledge framework mentioned above is that it answers the hiring manager’s questions before they are even asked. So, once you land that dream interview you are well prepared.

Here’s what the hiring manager wants to know:

  • Do you fit the culture, team and mission? Speak to your values. In the context of a job search, they tell the hiring manager whether or not you fit into the team dynamic and the company culture.
  • Do I want to work with you? Show off your traits. They tell the hiring manager how you’ll deliver on your skill set, and whether or not you’re someone they want to manage, share an office with, or go for a drink with after work.
  • Can you do the job? Prove your skills. These are the most important as skills relate to delivery and achieving specific, tangible results for the company.
  • What are you an expert in? Highlight your knowledge The impact sector is becoming more specialised and less generalist so the more you can build your own personal brand of expertise, the better you stand out and can position as a thought leader.

Now that you have an organized story, make sure it’s interesting. It’s ok to name drop – mention interesting people you’ve worked with, what companies and organizations you have been involved in, the number of projects you’ve completed, the countries you have been to. Anything you can do to get noticed and stand out from the competition will only help you, so don’t hold back.

Finding an impact career is no easy task, but following the tips above and in the webinar will get you on the right track – as will attending the Net Impact Conference in 2016, where Mark and I will be presenting on making a career change, the jobs market, and breaking into impact careers like impact investing, social intrapreneurship, and social entrepreneurship.  We hope to see you there!

Photo credit: StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post

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