Pursuing a Career in Social Impact? Become an Intrapreneur.

As a career advisor and coach for students and experienced professionals looking to transition into a career in social impact, here are two reasonably substantiated statistics that ring true in my work today:

  • 90% of Millennials in school want to graduate with a job that does good in the world, or has social impact. Almost 9 in 10 (87%), according to a recent Deloitte survey, believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.”
  • Less than 5% of job listings reflect a social impact focus. That means these jobs are hard to find, or perhaps they simply do not exist.

Why? Not since TOMs and Warby Parker helped popularize one-for-one business models and disrupt monopoly industries has there ever been a more exciting time to realize business can be a driver of social good. Legacy companies with visionary leaders are more transparent — check out the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. And even mainstream media outlets are taking note.

The Sharing Economy has its own section on TIME and prominently featured stories in its February 2015 issue . Mashable features Social Goodstories daily. And the New York Times launched investigative reports on private sector stories in Corporate Social Responsibility one year ago, reflecting a growing belief that companies are expected to act responsibly. Is CSR dead? No, and David Gelles wants to evolve the language and find a new term for it — CSR does not seem to capture what the private sector can do — comments welcome on this one!

Even with all the excitement around innovative business models with social impact at the center, the demand for social good jobs outweighs the supply. Simple economics. Harsh reality.

But do not fret. I started by promising you 1 step to get on this path to social good. But before I do, allow me to introduce you to your next talent manager: YOU.

For the other 95% of you that want to do good and have social impact in your jobs, you must adopt the mindset of an intrapraneur. Intrapreneurs are “those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind, within a business.” We can’t all work for disruptive businesses and a movement is afoot to unlock the untapped potential of companies. Echoing Green and SustainAbility published A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers, which must be the most comprehensive documentation of this movement I have come across so far.

There are 4 seemingly simple questions to ask when thinking about affecting change from inside an organization:

#1 — What Industry do you want to affect? Think of the sectors you have worked in, or that interest you, and how do they contribute (or have the potential to contribute) to social and environmental issues.

#2 — In what Function will you be most effective? Choose a function that builds on your transferrable skills. View the world through that lens — whether your discipline is Finance, Marketing, Operations or HR, there are many ways your skills can be put to work.

#3 — What Job do you dream of? Picture it and then figure out how to get there. Focus less on title and imagine what you are doing in that job and who works along side you to get it done. The jobs with the highest social impact potential tend to be those that interact with many other departments and disciplines — think about where in the organization a change agent lives.

#4 — What is your Passion? This one sounds easy, right? Wrong. In my advising sessions, when asked what someone cares about, I often get a blank stare or uncomfortable silence. This may be because when we think about careers and business, we tend to put profit before passion. When was the last time someone asked you what you are passionate about when interviewing for a job? Have you ever spent time negotiating compensation? How about asking to dedicate 20% of your time to what you love? Would that be as valuable to you as your salary? I would argue it is even more valuable.

Linking your passion and your career may be the most rewarding aspect of a career one can achieve, regardless of status in the organization. Finding your passion requires reflection, and only you can be responsible for how it perpetuates in your career.

So, where to begin? You guessed it. Start with the hardest step — find your passion — that is the 1 not-so-simple step you should take above anything else. If you do not know the change you wish to see in the world, it is hard to narrow the field. The increased focus on mindfulness appears to be an outcome of the rise in so many of us that struggle to answer this question — there are plenty of articles here on Medium just to start. I understand it can be difficult to focus on just one issue we want to affect — especially when there are so many to deal with. You could take a look at the 17 issues the UN Sustainable Development Goals tackle for inspiration — they are just some of the most pressing issues our generation faces today. But I strongly believe the answer to this question comes from within you — because these issues are also personal.

My favorite self-paced resource these days is 50 Ways to Get a Job thanks to Julian Caspari and Dev Aujla. This Canadian duo managed to build a very useful tool for the average American. They even have a section called, “Finding My Purpose.” Easy, right? Try it out. Use this tool to navigate your way to purpose and share feedback on your experience with us.

Jorge Fontanez