So You Want to Work in the Impact Business Space … But Aren’t Sure How to Go About It: Start by asking yourself these three questions
“How do I prepare myself to enter an industry that I don’t know so much about? Who do I talk to? What should I research? Where do I find jobs? Who are they looking for?”
Sound familiar? First of all, let me reassure you that we have all been there so don’t panic. Over the course of the last seven years, edge has been working towards bringing together the right talent to social enterprises. In that time we’ve collected a couple of tips that you are likely to find useful.
Before you even begin your job, fellowship or even internship quest start with a quick exercise. Ask yourself these three questions:
1. What social issue am I the most passionate about?
2. What type of career do I want to pursue?
3. What are my top skills and characteristics (e.g. attitudes and behavior)?
Got it? Perfect. Keep these answers in mind as you search for a career in the space to help guide you.
Now it’s time to understand the field a bit deeper, and bear in mind that this is a new area so it’s still being built as we speak. Where should you go to grasp the key concepts, such as “ecosystem,” “BoP,” “impact business,” “impact investing,” etc? I must say, you’re already on NextBillion so well done on getting to one of the best knowledge platforms.
But we highly advise you to go through our list of recommendations to get you started. Then you need to understand what types of jobs are available in this field. The good news is all professionals and talents are needed. From nurses to lawyers, sales experts, customer relationship managers and media experts, the list is never-ending, because you’re not only getting a “job,” you are helping shape the industry so we need everyone to do it together. Find out the sector in which you’d prefer to work (think about the questions I gave you at the beginning) and start building a map of all players that contribute to it. From there send emails, get introduced and start looking for job opportunities; there are also internship options with several organizations. Why not work for one of the businesses in edge’s portfolio, for example?
And now the most important part: What type of behavior and mindset is crucial for you to become a successful professional in this area? You must have realized by now that this is not your traditional 9-5 job with things set in stone. You are entering a start-up environment, you’re joining teams who are building something that affects millions of people. You need to think big and you need to think fast. Be innovative and flexible to be relevant to the market needs, be a risk-taker with eyes on the end goal, be a results-driven leader, be able to adapt to constant changing environments and be culturally sensitive to engage everyone.
Are you wondering how you can develop and be exposed to such behaviors and environments to gain more experience? We have some suggestions for you. Maybe look into the courses offered by edge, Acumen Fund and Amani Institute, for starters, to expand your knowledge and hear from different perspectives. And why not do an internship with edge or IDEX? You can also volunteer in for-profit or non-profit organizations and perhaps work in relatable jobs in a more corporate environment to sharpen your business acumen.
I want to share one last thing with you: Working in this industry is one of the fastest learning and rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Being able to learn and grow as you do it, getting your hands dirty building a business, there’s no price for that level of opportunity.
Two years ago, I went to an event called Emerge in Oxford, UK, and a middle-aged woman shared with the group that a couple of years ago the expression “social entrepreneur” didn’t even exist. Seeing how much has happened in the impact business space until now really makes you not only value the chance of being part of it, but also the chance of being at the heart of it, at the best time. So stick around, you won’t regret it.
And don’t forget, this is a small space. That means maintaining relationships is instrumental to shape your career. In edge we often use this expression, “Get known to get hired,” and we’ll leave you with that advice. Make your work speak for itself and put yourself out there and it will take you places.
Frederica Marques is the Global Coordinator at edge, a multi-pronged talent development initiative for university students and recent graduates that aims to add value for businesses that serve the BoP.