What Impact Do You Want to Have?

People joining hands


For an idealist like Desiré Johnson, a career is more like a calling. It flows naturally from who she is and what she believes in.


Desiré, a graduate of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., faced trauma and upheaval as a youth, including dealing with family members in prison. In college, she spoke out publicly about her experiences and became a student leader and passionate volunteer. Her self-awareness — “I knew I wanted to work with youth and fix the problems I had encountered in my own life,” she said—and commitment to helping others eventually opened the door to a career that fit her perfectly: program coordinator for Downtown TAY, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization serving at-risk young adults like she once was.


Desiré said like many people of her generation, she wanted to do something that mattered. “Most of us are choosing a job because of a passion for it,” she said. “I felt the call and I answered it.”


Are you also socially conscious like Desiré? To find a career that calls to you, an important step is to know yourself. Here are some questions that might help you gain insight:


  • What values are most important to you and why? Make a list and consider what experiences helped form these values.




  • What life experiences do you bring to the table and how do you think these could translate to useful job skills?




  • What are you passionate about? What do you love to do?



After this reflection, the next step is to do your research. Identify organizations that fit into your areas of interest, but also keep an open mind about unexpected opportunities. Could there be a private-sector company, for example, that lines up with your values? Careers with social impact aren’t only at nonprofits.


Once you know better what your passions are and what organizations or companies interest you, get involved—do volunteer work, attend events, look for opportunities to match your skills to the organizations’ needs. That’s what Margee Burch did, and it reaped rewards.


Also a Mills graduate, Margee volunteered her time with several nonprofit and religious organizations. She made connections with nonprofit leaders, and her dedication to service impressed them. Soon, she landed a job at the San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish Community Relations Council, working on causes she cared most about: same-sex marriage, immigration and climate change. It was a deeply fulfilling job, Margee said.


“If you do what you love—really get out in the community and do it, showing that you’re serious about it … it pays off,” Margee said. “Even if you don’t know at first what job will come from it.”


Burch is now attending law school and plans on becoming a community college professor, which she said is also an expression of her values. “I want to do service work and that will be part of any job for me,” she said.


To find a rewarding, socially aware career, the most important place to start is within. Ask yourself, “what impact do I want to have?” Understanding this is the first step toward developing your career path.


Share with us: what impact do you want to have? Tweet @teamfundamentum or comment on facebook.com/fundamentum.careers.


Written by Melissa McEver Huckabay


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Posted by Team Fundamentum