So You Want to Relaunch into the Social Impact Space?
Many successful relaunchers consider social impact work as part of their relaunch journey – whether through strategic volunteering in a field they are interested in, or actually restarting their full professional career in a social impact field. We often refer professionals on career break to idealist.org and idealistcareers.org as go-to sources for information and opportunities in the social impact space.
To that end, we thought we’d ask the Editor of Idealist Careers, Alexis Perrotta, to share some of her thoughts on how relaunchers can best tap into the resources they offer.
How did Idealist Careers start and how has it changed since?
Well, the blog actually started as a set of books. Back in 2008, Idealist published two books for nonprofit professionals, The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers and The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-time Job Seekers. In 2013, we gathered some of the content from our books and made it available online, and this is how Idealist Careers was born!
Since then, we have expanded our library of content and resources, welcomed contributing career experts to share their intel with our readers, redesigned the site, and added some fun and interactive features like career quizzes and assessments.
What does social impact mean to you?
One really great part of working at Idealist is that social impact can mean so many different things. For me, social impact isn't just about doing; it's also about listening and connecting. Lots of people can start a great nonprofit, volunteer in their community, or work for a company with a triple bottom line. But I think there's also something to be said for how you connect with the community and what you're open to learning from others. For me, there's always an aspect of thoughtfulness and reflection in social impact.
Who is your primary audience and what specific fields are they in?
We create content for anyone looking to find, land, love, or grow in, their social-impact career. That means we have advice and resources that speak to mid-career professional looking for a change of pace, individuals reentering the workforce after an extended break, college kids on the hunt for the right internship, and those individuals who are just getting started on their nonprofit career path.
And there are quite a few surprises in store for those who assume that social-impact work exists strictly in the nonprofit space, or conversely, that the nonprofit world has no room for business-minded professionals. This sector isn't what is was even five years ago, and that's really evident when you look at the variety of opportunities out there. Nonprofits are hiring full-time web developers and program analysts, and private-sector companies are experimenting with what it means to have a triple bottom line.
And finally, don't forget, every nonprofit needs a superstar operations/administrative team. With few exceptions, we all have bills and salaries to pay, boards to coordinate, and offices to run.
What advice do you have for relaunchers who want to restart their career in the social impact space?
If you have years of private-sector experience under your belt and you're interested in taking on a social-impact role, you may be hesitant to explore the idea of a more entry-level position. While you may not sit at the level of the organizational hierarchy that you occupied in your previous professional life, there is plenty of experience to gain and connections to be made as an entry- or mid-level nonprofit professional.
One other tip (that is not going to be news to anyone) is that you should absolutely start with volunteering. This offers an opportunity to network while also dipping your toe in the sector or issue-area of choice in order to get a sense of whether it's really a fit. I simply cannot overstate the importance of an ongoing commitment to a relevant issue area when job hunting in the social-impact space.
What are your favorite (e.g. top 5) articles on your site that you would recommend for relaunchers?
- Reinventing Your Career After 50
- Podcast | Get the Experience You Need to Switch Careers
- Re-entry After the Parenting Sabbatical
- Take Our Quiz | Are You Ready for Your Next Big Interview
- Staying in the Game Past 50
You were at our NYC Conference last year - what were your impressions?
It was exciting to be in a room with so many people considering a major life change; the energy and anticipation was evident and it got me wondering where all of these impressive professionals would land and how they would go on to do big things in this second (or third or fourth) iteration of their respective careers.
I was also surprised by the diversity in the audience as well as the diverse fields and careers represented. I loved hearing from seasoned professionals about what they learned in their careers, in their time away from work, and in their personal reflection and exploration, particularly what they think should be their next step.
What is the most common Q&A you are asked about Idealist Careers?
We actually get a lot of questions around re-entering the workforce; specifically, our readers want to know how to talk about (and honestly represent on their resume) a gap, how to start networking again after time away, and how to address the potential of ageism in the workplace and in interviews.
In response, we're often able to point our readers to existing materials on the site:
- Back to the Workforce After a Career Break?
- Job Seeker Challenges, Then and Now
- 4 Networking Tips for Non-networkers
But this also seeds ideas for future content. If we know what our readers are looking for, it's our job to make sure that they have access to it on Idealist Careers.
About Alexis Perrotta and Idealist Careers
Alexis Perrotta is an Editor at Idealist Careers. Idealist Careers, a publication of Idealist.org, offers passionate and driven social-impact professionals and job seekers the largest online collection of high-quality, inspiring, and useful social-impact content. Idealist Careers offers expert insight into the intricacies of the job search from the perspective of the job seeker community as well that of hiring organizations. They pride themselves in featuring voices of nonprofit professionals and social-impact experts from across the sector. Alexis is a seasoned communications professional with 13+ years of nonprofit experience and 5+ years of experience creating engaging content and copy. She loves the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. At Idealist Careers, Alexis is eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.