Keys to Building a Career in Social Enterprise

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Last week I introduced the idea that we all must forge our own career paths in the social enterprise space. The space is evolving quickly and staying relevant means evolving with it. The question then becomes, how do you do that?

In my experience, those with the most trouble building careers in this space are those who agonize over the smartest next step. They try to assess which industries are growing and where they might fit in. They come up with elaborate job search plans and networking strategies. This ends up taking a lot of time, yields very little progress, and becomes the cause of endless second guessing.

Instead of obsessing over choosing the smartest next step, here’s what I have seen work when it comes to building meaningful careers in social enterprise.

Follow your interests

The surest way to do meaningful work is to know what lights you up and find as many opportunities as possible to do it. It might not feel like you’re building a career. But remember, there are people out there who earn a living planning health-focused dance parties at 7am and traveling the world to support social entrepreneurs. They didn’t wait for the that job posting to come up. They just started doing it.

Seize opportunity

I often watch people turn down an opportunity because it’s not the opportunity that they were looking for. But, great opportunities are rarely what we are expecting. Take the opportunities that come your way seriously. Don’t reject them outright. If an opportunity engages you in your interests while allowing you to grow personally and professionally, I strongly encourage you to take that opportunity. 

Invest in relationships

I don’t believe in networking. I believe in relationship building. This is something that people who build careers in social enterprise do all the time. Spend a little extra time getting to know your boss. Support a friend who is launching a new project. Find ways to support people who are doing work that interests you. This leads to two things. First, it will keep new opportunities coming your way. Cool opportunities often come up when we engage in work that we enjoy. Second, you’ll have a core group of people who are ready to mobilize for you when you need them.

Ultimately, if you’re focused on “getting somewhere” with your career, the social enterprise space will be challenging for you. Embrace the projects, opportunities, and people around you and enjoy the meaningful work that you’re doing. And soon, you’ll find yourself building an exciting career in social enterprise.