Go-to resources for meaningful careers in each sector

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at amypotthast.com.

Plotting your next career move? Here’s a sampling of comprehensive go-to resources from the career experts in each sector: corporate citizenship, government, or nonprofit.

Corporate citizenship careers

Net Impact’s Corporate Careers that Make a Difference is a guide to pursuing a career in corporate citizenship either by pushing the boundaries in a more traditional corporate role or by taking on a role specifically dedicated to social or environmental impact. The book shares the stories of dozens of professionals who have blazed trails in this work; it also describes key corporate citizenship career competencies (useful both to help you develop your skills as well as to talk about them during a job search).

Net Impact is a membership organization that is inspiring new generations of professionals who put their business skills to work for social and environmental change across sectors through chapter networks, resources, and outreach to MBA students and schools.

You can download the sneak peek here.


Federal jobs by region: image from MakingtheDifference.org

Federal careers

MakingtheDifference.org is a website from Partnership for Public Service that introduces pathways to federal government careers. The site explains what the cabinet departments are, what the federal agencies are; describes the diverse roles federal workers play in their careers; offers informational interviews with federal workers; clarifies what and where federal jobs are (did you know that most are not in Washington, D.C.?) as well as internships.

Partnership for Public Service is a nonpartisan organization that attracts young leaders to federal government service through education, advocacy, and resources that demystify the federal job search and clarify pathways to public-sector service.

Nonprofit Careers

Available both in print and online, the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers is an A to Z look at landing a job in the nonprofit sector for professionals who started their careers in other sectors. From helping job seekers understand what the sector is (and isn’t) all the way to closing the deal — or starting a new nonprofit instead.

The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-Time Job Seekers (also available in print and online) features similar content by introducing new professionals to career concepts and skills they may be less familiar with.

A companion to both of these guides is Service Corps to Social Impact Career — a guide I wrote for national and international service participants and recent alumni of all ages. Only available online (and free), the book helps corps members prepare for their post-service career transition, explore career options, and translate their service experience during the job search, and settle into a new professional role.

Finally, Making a Difference: A Guide to Personal Profit in a Nonprofit World (also online, also free) from Idealist and the National Endowment for Financial Education offers financial guidance for recent college graduates who are contemplating a nonprofit career and concerned about making ends meet. The book discusses topics like student loans, budgeting, salary search, cost of living, credit and retirement plans.

Of course, there are other sector-specific career guides. What are your favorites? How have they helped you succeed?

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ReWired for Change: Keeping the Spotlight Burning on Baltimore

Baltimore, by Michael King (Creative Commons)

At the Emmys last week, George Clooney received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, an honor that recognizes an actor’s do-gooder work and highlights television as a catalyst for change. As Clooney talked in his acceptance speech about “keeping the spotlight burning” on issues after the cameras disappear, I couldn’t help but think about the HBO series The Wire. Why? Because it’s one of the few shows whose stars not only act for entertainment, but are collectively acting on their social conscience through a nonprofit called ReWired for Change.

From 2002-2007, The Wire portrayed Baltimore’s most neglected and most powerful communities, delving deep into complex institutions—the drug trade, law enforcement, unions, politics, the media—and showing how they’re ultimately all related. I reference it all the time, at work, at the hair salon, at a recent bachelorette party…If it’s possible to have a crush on a T.V. show, I’ve got it bad.

After watching five seasons, it’s hard to miss one of the show’s central themes: the wasted potential of misguided youth. And it’s hard not to feel like you want to do something about it. Sonja John, who played the tough cop Shakima Greggs, decided she wanted to keep the spotlight on this issue after the show ended, starting in Baltimore. With support from the cast and creator David Simon, ReWired for Change was born.

What’s cool about ReWired for Change is that it uses episodes from the show as a teaching tool to empower “high risk youth” to seek better opportunities. The curriculum also incorporates other forms of art and media to encourage youth to think constructively about themselves and their surroundings, as well as a street-based intervention component. The ultimate goal is to implement the model on a national and global level; in the meantime, ReWired for Change has been busy with local initiatives, such as a youth community center and a coalition of citizens working to improve the quality of life in Charm City.

At the risk of sounding like a gushing schoolgirl, I really believe The Wire is a prime example of reality inspiring art, and art (hopefully) inspiring reality. It gives me hope that American pop culture isn’t so self-absorbed as the media portrays it to be, and that the reach of television can be harnessed for good. [Editor’s note: ReWired for Change has a profile on Idealist; keep an eye on it if you want to get involved.]

Besides The Wire, what other arts and entertainment platforms out there have inspired change?

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Book Review: An Introduction to Brandraising

“Brandraising” blends fundraising with marketing to outline a new way of thinking about a nonprofit’s communications with the public. Brandraising (a new book by Sarah Durham) is an easy to read, easy to use guide to bringing this new way of thinking to bear on the work of all types of public benefit organizations.

Brandraising (the concept) is building “a strong framework for communication” that rests securely on vision, mission and values — “the core elements that direct all aspects of the organization’s work.” The difference between brandraising and other guides to nonprofit communications is apparent from the start when Durham adds to the list of core elements four more concepts: objectives, audiences, positioning and personality.

Most planning sessions for nonprofits likely get as far as objectives, though considering that sort of detail when thinking about organizational communications may be rare. Rarer still, Durham thinks, is attention to the audiences to be reached, the position to be achieved, and the personality that best suits the organization’s goals. What adjectives describe the way the organization wants to be perceived? What is the big idea the organization wants to be known for? Who, exactly, needs to hear and understand the organization’s messages?

The book offers straightforward and practical exercises for working out the answers to questions like these. My personal favorite: Make a list on a whiteboard of all the other organizations that might be seen by the public as working with more or less the same goals as those that guide your work. Write your tagline or identity statement at the top just to the right of the list. And then make a check mark next to the name of any other organization that could comfortably use those same words to describe itself. Too many check marks? Your message is going to come across as blurred; key members of the public may all too easily confuse your work with that of other organizations that approach the goals differently.

Clarifying the key components of identity so they can be communicated accurately is half of the brandraising project. The other half—and maybe the harder half—is aligning communications efforts in every part of the work across all “the channels and tools through which audiences connect with the organization.” Too often, Durham suggests, organizations invest too little in developing a framework for communication that can be, and is, used by everyone consistently and comfortably.

Many people who work in nonprofits, Durham observes, are not engaged with the idea of marketing as an important contributor to organizational success. Brandraising serves well as an introduction, building on nonprofit examples and respecting the distinctiveness of nonprofits’ work.

You can order Brandraising from Amazon.com with this link; a small royalty will be paid that helps support this site.

For an advanced exploration of the idea, look at the 7th edition of Phillip Kotler’s classic (and expensive) Strategic Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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