3 skills to include in your responsible career planning strategy

An effective career planning strategy is key for you to best compete for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) positions. Knowing which skills you already have available in your skill toolbox and which ones you will need to dedicate more time to develop or refine is the toughest part of this process.

Fortunately, as reported by Ana Arias in our justmeans CSR news section, the results from the new Boston College survey on the CSR profession can serve as your road map to develop key skills that will increase your competitiveness as an aspiring CSR professional (and your effectiveness once hired):

Leadership skills - Whether they are interacting with stakeholders in or beyond their company, CSR professionals heavily rely on their leadership skills, or their ability to influence without direct authority. Jim Collins wrote what I believe is one of the best definitions of leadership: "Leadership cannot be assigned or bestowed by power or structure; you are a leader if and only if people follow your leadership when they have the freedom not to". Think about examples: When have you demonstrated that you can get people to do what you need them to do when they have the choice not to? Reflect upon your track record in this area, and take every opportunity (i.e. volunteer management, neighborhood or parent association) to build your leadership muscle. Including leadership skills development in your career planning strategy will pay dividend during your CSR interviews. Furthermore, these leadership skills will also be instrumental to your success once hired in a CSR capacity. For more on developing leadership skills, see our previous justmeans posts here and here.

Effective Communication Skills - Building upon the leadership skills highlighted above, it is not surprising that the Boston College survey found that a high proportion of CSR professionals have a background in communication, public relations, and/or marketing. Indeed, if your success depends on influencing others, effective communication is likely to be a key skill to bring to the table. The effectiveness of your communication skills primarily builds upon your understanding of where your target audience is coming from, what the needs of the people you need to partner with are, and how you can provide a solution to their needs through CSR initiatives. Building your business case, or articulating for them how a CSR initiative will either (1) save them money or (2) increase their revenue, will be instrumental to your success in CSR. As a career planning strategy, look for ways to integrate CSR initiatives into your current work, and build a business case that will enable you to have future examples you can showcase about both your commitment to CSR and your track record of leveraging CSR initiatives in a traditional corporate position. For more information on how to do so, see our previous posts and case studies here and here.

Compensation Negotiation Skills - Based on the Boston College Survey, it seems that for a similar level of responsibility, CSR jobs tend to lead to lower salaries than other traditional corporate jobs. Furthermore, and as it is the case in many other career paths, women were compensated less than men for similar CSR job levels (median salary range = $80,000 to $89,000 for women and $100,000 to $109,000 for men). Lower salaries might be due to the perception that CSR is considered a cost center rather than a revenue generating entity within companies. However, evidence suggests that CSR initiatives might prove to generate more revenue (and increased reputation) and they cost. Indeed, numerous case students show that companies have been saving quite a bit of money through some of the most common CSR initiatives. For instance, companies have saved through energy efficiency initiatives, and changes in waste management, and recycling efforts. In addition, companies that are committed to integrate CSR into their core business operations have been able to attract and retain top talent more effectively, which leads to higher productivity and lower turnover costs. Therefore, it seems that, as an aspiring CSR professional, it would be to your advantage to include compensation negotiation to your career planning strategy. Explore performance-based compensation that is used in sales, strategy, or consulting, and find out how you could negotiate incentives and additional compensation based on the savings that the company will benefit from through your CSR work. The more you can demonstrate in a quantifiable manner that CSR initiatives resulted in margin increases, cost savings or improved human capital management results, the more you will be able to advocate for a better compensation package. For more on compensation and negotiation skills, see our previous justmeans posts here and here.

By integrating these 3 skills into your career planning strategy, you will build a solid foundation that will enable you to best position yourself to get business done better.

Please use the comment section below to provide additional career planning tips for aspiring CSR professionals!

Photo Credit: AMAJAPAN.