So, you want to make a difference in your career?
In our lifetime, we’re going to be spending a lot of our time at work.
You may be thinking about how you can make this time matter, and considering jobs where you can make a social impact.
This brings up a host of challenging questions: what are the best opportunities for making a difference through work? How influential can I really be? How do I get started?
Standard advice can be wrong
The classic piece of career advice we’ve all heard before is, ‘follow your passions’. It sounds intuitive, but this can be entirely unhelpful for a few reasons.
If you consider what you were passionate about five years ago, it might be totally different to what drives you today.
So where does that leave us? I think there’s a few options.
Some strategies for developing an impactful career?
Target under-acknowledged problems:
You don’t need to work for a massive charity to make a difference. Sometimes, you might actually make more of a unique and meaningful impact through being innovative.
There’s a host of ‘sexy problems’ out there that many charities are addressing, and that heaps of people flock to: homelessness, refugees, and climate change are just a few examples.
These are obviously super important issues, but it means that many other problems that affect people in deep ways aren’t addressed.
For example, consider that one in four children from single parent families live in poverty in Australia, or that those over 55 are the group most likely to experience long-term unemployment in Australia.
Targeting under-acknowledged problems could be a great strategy for making an impact in your career.
There is a real opportunity to make a difference to these issues as they may lack current or effective solutions. You can read more about this idea here.
Good intentions and an established initiative don’t always translate to a meaningful difference.
Some aid interventions flunk, such as when the US Government decided to deliver malaria nets to Africa but they were used as fishing nets as the local people were not aware of their function.
Across the social impact sector, there’s a huge need for critical evaluation of not-for-profits, aid organisations, and large problems so we can avoid failed interventions and work strategically to make an effective change. This means if you have a passion for research or are considering an academic career, you could make a meaningful difference too.
Earn to give:
If on-the-ground, face-to-face action on social problems is not your thing, that’s totally fine too.
There’s a huge impact you can have by using your job earnings to make a difference through effective altruism.
This is the notion that you might donate a percentage of your earnings per year to a charity that is truly effective.
Such a strategy can make a huge difference, especially when the most effective charities are thought to make significantly more impact per dollar than the least effective. GiveWell is a great resource for effective altruism.