The Challenges of Breaking into Social Enterprise


“What are the biggest challenges to getting into the social enterprise space?” A workshop participant asked me this great question last Tuesday and, to be honest, it took me a little off-guard.  I’ve worked with hundreds of professionals looking to break into social enterprise over the years, and I spend most of my time thinking in terms of opportunities, not challenges. But, it’s worth going into a social enterprise job search understanding the challenges you might face. So, I want to share a couple commons challenges to breaking into the social enterprise space.

Fragmentation in the Space

Unlike the traditional business, nonprofit, and government sectors, the social enterprise space is poorly mapped out. It’s a growing, entrepreneurial sector which means organizations come and go often, and senior leaders are typically too busy to promote their organization or convene in an industry group. Because of this, most social enterprises are relatively unknown and not well connected to their sector. So, when it comes to hiring, senior managers typically turn to the networks that are immediately around them.

This fragmentation is why building your own network in social enterprise is so important when looking for a job. Like everything else, hiring managers are looking for a quick and convenient hiring solution. You want to be top-of-mind for them when they start looking for their next hire, and the best way to do that is to get connected and stay connected with them.

Role Translation

Because social enterprise blends the nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors together, job titles are highly inconsistent from one organization to the next. For example, business-minded teams will hire for operations roles, whereas nonprofit-minded teams are more likely to hire for program roles. They’re probably very similar positions, but hiring managers and job candidates alike get hung up on the wording. Never have semantics gotten in the way of so many opportunities.

Don’t get caught up in the game of appealing to every type of role you might be a fit for. I encourage you to focus on finding organizations that you would love to work for instead. Once you have identified a few, explore where your skills fit into that organization. Make them aware that you are interested in those opportunities and find ways to demonstrate your abilities. This makes you an obvious choice for the next open opportunity. These organizations can also be a great referral network to other opportunities that fit with your interests.

Navigating the social enterprise space on your own can be a challenging process. That’s why Mission Driven has developed the Break into Social Enterprise career accelerator. If you’re interested in joining, please reach out. The deadline to enroll is October 25!