How to ensure your career is having an impact

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How to ensure your career is having an impact

Did you ever consider whether your career has an impact? Before you consider the question though, let’s consider what “impact” means in the context of your career.

From my experience as a sustainability recruiter, I see three types of impact jobs:

Tier 1: Primary. These jobs carry an inherent link to social and/or environmental impact. Professionals in Tier 1 have the technical or business acumen to deconstruct a specific aspect of sustainability and operationalize it across their organization. Like Kathrin Winkler, chief sustainability officer at EMC, who considers herself a change agent working across departments and hierarchies to prioritize sustainability. Or Josh Maltby, Practice Lead at Procurian, who helps reduce energy usage in data centers, production lines and other industrial settings. Or Lance Hosey, who runs the nonprofit GreenBlue, which equips businesses with the science and resources to make products more sustainable.

I post about two of these Tier 1 positions every day on my website at Ellen's List. Examples include:

  • Sustainability Manager, Energy and Water Stewardship at MillerCoors.
  • Coordinator Global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility, Tiffany & Co
  • Social Responsibility Specialist at Nordstrom

Tier 2: Secondary. These are the connectors — the ones with the ideas, the enthusiasm but not necessarily the job titles or the academic knowledge of their Tier 1 colleagues. Opportunities for positive social and environmental change exist in their workplaces and jobs, but they are not the centerpiece of these jobs. Like the folks at Application Experts, a Broomfield, Colo.-based B Corp that develops cloud-based software solutions to help alternative asset managers track the success of their investments.

Secondaries are self-starters. They muster the organization's web of hierarchies and boards to take note, stand up and make an impact. Their own involvement might be as sundry as starting a green team or hosting — and heavily promoting — the annual Weekend of Love, like Christian Yazdanpanah, Manager of Positive Impact at Agencies of Change, does. Tier 2 folks are the rousers — and often the most enthusiastic about making a difference.

Tier 3: Calling. These individuals follow their calling. Unlike the primary or the secondary tiers, their projects are the direct outcome of individual passions and beliefs. Examples include healthcare professionals, social entrepreneurs, as well as thousands of teachers or those servicing in the Armed Forces.

Searching for Impact on Job Boards

According to Net Impact, an impact job is "one that's bringing positive social and environmental change." In recognition of the growing usage -- and variability -- around impact and impact careers, Net Impact recently added an impact section to its jobs board. You can now search for jobs in 22 Areas of Impact, including civic engagement, energy conservation, health, housing, LGBT and microfinance. Employers can also post jobs in the same 22 categories; ensuring candidates are filtered not only by skill level and expertise but also their commitment to make a difference.

“Job seekers today want to know that their work will be meaningful. Adapting the job posting format to articulate this priority seems like the logical next step,” explained Liz Maw, CEO of Net Impact. “We recognize that this is a new request for already overworked recruiting staff, and that it may result in fewer job postings in the short term. But in the long term, we believe that by asking recruiters to articulate impact areas in the posting, we’ll encourage more integration of sustainability into recruiting processes, and by extension, into the company overall.”

But Net Impact is just one job board. It is helpful to the extent you land on the Net Impact site before you can take advantage of the impact opportunity. For many, the traditional job boards and, increasingly, LinkedIn become primary avenues to figure out how they want to chart their careers. That is where we need the same impact distinctions.

Accounting for Impact: Onus on the Employers

Employers can shift the tide as well. I encourage them to consider the impact their jobs offer -- to include specific language in their job descriptions as well as an impact section on their jobs boards. And especially to make the distinction between Tier 1 and Tier 2, because that is where organizations continue to lose committed and talented candidates.

As more job seekers connect impact, meaning and financial rewards in their career search, it will be up to hiring organizations to continually make the case that they are an employer of choice.

Image by GreenBiz Group.