Cure Your Career Funk: Build Your Responsible Career!

In the last few years, the goal for many people was straightforward:  Keep your job!  In the toughest economic climate of our generation, securing or keeping a job with benefits was the main pre-occupation for emerging and established professionals.  However, and at the same time, keeping your job came with a big cost:  you were asked to do more with less again and again, with little recognition for your contributions (and probably no raises for the past couple of years).  Fortunately, 2011 might mark the end of the employment funk at the marco level.  With job growth in socially responsible businesses, social enterprises and select nonprofits raising, it might be your time to start taking steps towards aligning your values with your paycheck!

Responsible careers are a growing trend:  Professionals want careers that successfully blend financial return with social impact and environmental responsibility.  However, as many aspiring socio-eco innovators, you might feel that you are facing the classic catch 22 of a career switch.  If you want to join an existing socially responsible business (or work for a nonprofit), you might get discouraged because you feel you don't have the experience or education required on the job postings you find online.

The good news is that in today's digital world, there are numerous ways to gain the experience you need to reach your responsible career goals.  Here are three ways to gain experience without changing what you are currently doing to generate your income:

Responsible Career Tip #1:  Volunteer Your Time And Expertise - Whether your are an operations coordinator wanting to flex your marketing muscles, or a financial analyst wanting to participate in strategic planning, volunteering can provide you with the skills you need to get closer to your responsible career goals.  Platforms such as the HandsOn Network, VolunteerMatch, Idealist.org or Sparked.com will provide you with opportunities to volunteer for or serve on the board of social enterprises and nonprofits that align with your values.   Volunteering is key to demonstrate your passion for causes you care about.  Indeed, a 2009 survey by Idealist.org shows that nonprofit hiring managers favor candidates that have been volunteering at their organizations, or at organizations that have similar goals when selecting candidates for interviews.  Therefore, documenting that you have contributed your time and knowledge to make a difference in one or two causes you care about will be a tremendous asset to your future applications for both nonprofit and social enterprise jobs.

Responsible Career Tip #2:  Leverage Online Education - In today's digital world, you don't have to leave your job to get a quality education.  In addition to part-time and weekend programs, you also have a growing set of online options that will enable you to learn the frameworks, best practices, and skills that you need to contribute to the causes you care about.  This trend is confirmed by the 2009 Online Nation report issued by Sloan-C, an MIT-based consortium of institutions that measure the quality of online education.  A 17% increase in students attending at least one course online was observed between the fall of 2007 and the fall of 2008.  In the fall of 2008, over 4.6 million students were attending at least one online course.  Importantly, this 17% growth rate in online learning participation was far beyond the 1.2% growth observed in the overall enrollment in more traditional higher education options.  Certificate programs in Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability, or nonprofit management are significantly growing as well, which means you don't have to leave your job to get the education you need to build your responsible career.

Responsible Career Tip #3:  Freelance Your Way to Your New Responsible Career - Surveys indicate that in 2011, companies are considering hiring for contract work and freelance opportunities rather than for full-time positions.  Indeed, surveys from Business News Daily, DominionBusinessCenter.com, and GlobeTask.com showed that 34% of employer respondents percent intended to hire temporary or contract workers in 2011. Furthermore, 39 percent of respondents stated that they plan to hire their full-time employees from their pool of contract or temporary workers.  Given this trend, packaging your skills and expertise to get freelance work with your social enterprises or nonprofit of interest might lead to you find your next full-time opportunity.

The Post-Great Recession Era has been dubbed the 'gig' economy.  In this new gig economy, it is central for you to put your time, knowledge (and money) towards causes you believe in.  Through the contacts you will make and the experience you will gain, you will not only get out of your current career funk.  You will also build your credibility as a responsible professional dedicated to aligning your values with your paycheck.

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