Jennifer Savoie, Senior Associate Director in Wharton MBA Career Management, gives advice and insights into how jobseekers can build meaningful, dynamic social impact careers.

“Can I really have a career in social impact? How?”

Jennifer Savoie, Senior Associate Director in MBA Career Management, is hearing this question more and more from students seeking a career where they can make a difference. We asked her about the current landscape of social impact and business careers, and what advice she gives students who are eager to work in this realm. 

What kind of careers are there in business and social impact?

Students have pursued careers across a wide spectrum of social impact opportunities, including:

  • Social Finance: Microfinance institutions, community development financial institutions, multilateral development banks, or impact investing funds. Often the opportunities in this space require previous traditional finance experience like investment banking, but not all.
  • Government/Public Sector: National, state, or local agencies/departments that handle issues concerning public welfare.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Community development, child development, education, environment, health care, hunger alleviation, international aid, or development, philanthropy, and poverty reduction.
  • Social Enterprises: Ventures that advance their social missions often through entrepreneurial, earned income strategies. These are businesses and organizations that are formed to address a social need or improve human or environmental conditions and their business growth plans are focused on their capacity to realize their social and environmental goals.
  • Corporations: Social impact and sustainability are playing a larger role in corporate strategy. Opportunities go far beyond traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) to include creating sustainable and just supply chains, developing products that serve underserved communities, and improving production processes to minimize environmental harm.

What are some organizations where students worked after graduating from Wharton?

Wharton students have landed social impact careers in a variety of sectors. Some examples of organizations include:

  • African Leadership Network
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Bridgespan
  • Dalberg
  • Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
  • Education Pioneers
  • Global Innovation Fund
  • International Finance Corporation (IFC)
  • Low Income Investment Fund
  • M-KOPA Solar
  • Reach Capital
  • Real Food Works
  • RSF Social Finance
  • org
  • World Economic Forum

How have you seen careers in this realm evolve?

Over the years, we’ve seen a big expansion in the variety and types of organizations that our students are interested in pursuing. Their willingness to find something unique in order to take on a social impact issue has grown. As a result, we see greater diversity in where our students find opportunities within social impact.  In the past few years, we have seen students find their way into development consulting, ed-tech startups, foundations, impact investing, nonprofit consulting, renewable energy, water preservation, and more.

What advice do you have for students seeking social impact careers?

Be proactive. Know your passion. Use all resources.

Employers in the social impact arena often lack the resources and time to visit our campus, so this job search requires student candidates to be self-motivated and proactive in their search. We have alumni across the social impact spectrum, so when students make the effort to reach out for networking conversations, they open themselves to many possibilities.  It can be imperative to connect with alumni to learn about companies, career paths, opportunities, and to become well-versed in the language of this sector. When you network with alumni, remember the rules of good networking: be inquisitive (ask smart questions), respectful (of their time) and grateful (send thank you emails!)

It’s also important that students figure out which sub-sector focus is their passion. Being broadly interested in social impact may hamper a student’s candidacy; however, when a student can clearly articulate their interest and fit for a specific area, they have a stronger chance of landing a role in that sector.  And find campus activities (such as those offered by Wharton Social Impact Initiative) that will help develop experience that is transferable or relevant to that sector.

Finally, students should utilize campus job boards, but also explore resources outside of our recruiting systems: there are many social impact websites and job boards that help students uncover opportunities, such as: (the B Corp Job Board), the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), Commongood Careers, DevEx, Idealist, JustMeans, and more.

Posted: August 9, 2018

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