Check out my recent article in Forbes.
Impact Careers: Inside Or Outside The Corporation
As a recruiter specializing in corporate sustainability, I often speak with candidates who have a passion for making the world a better place. The jobseeker not only wants a successful career but also wants to contribute to society. This contributes to their overall feeling of doing well by doing good.
However a false assumption may also come with this logic. The assumption is that creating change will get done faster and greater from inside the corporate sector. This path for corporate change is all together too narrow.
A preschool teacher of my children passed away after a painful struggle with cancer. Chris Walton was one of the gentlest people I have ever met. He was loved for his kind nature and how he would lead our children in song to his guitar. The preschool held a memorial for him where everyone had kind words to say about him, but they all echoed my own thoughts: I wish I had known him better.
Chris was so respected and admired in the community. Even those who hadn’t spent time with him since their second year of preschool remembered him as a wonderful man a decade or so later. The days he spent teaching children about the wonders of the world—the cycle of the moon, the letters of the alphabet, the power of music—touched them and their families forever. During the formative years of childhood, a caring adult has one of the most powerful presences in a child’s life.
Chris may not have reduced the carbon footprint of a Fortune 500 company or changed the labor practices in factories halfway around the world. But he taught my children to care for the earth through the school’s small garden, and how to play with each other patiently and respectfully. I realized that change starts with our own worldview, which is formed very early in life by the adults who care for us as children.
Yes, these ambitious and motivated young graduates can make a difference by working as corporate sustainability professionals and affecting change in their organizations and the boardroom. But it’s not the only way, and it’s not always the best way. Jacquelyn Smith pointed out a study by CareerBliss in “The Happiest Jobs in America”, referring to employee’s root desire to feel valued and content.
Sustainable change can happen inside or outside the corporation. Those purpose driven professionals who are not in a corporate setting—parents, teachers, religious leaders, coaches—may have just as much impact as someone who convinces consumers to buy recycled products.
To make a difference, consider local, national and global opportunities. Explore opportunities in the public, private and nonprofit sector. Question assumptions about impact in all sectors.
Chris’s death was tragic. The effect he had on the community is undeniable and will be sorely missed. I only hope that the children who were lucky enough to be taught and nurtured by him remember him as a role model for leading a responsible, impactful life. And that the parents who saw their children grow into good people under his care will encourage their children to help as many people as possible, through whatever profession they choose to pursue.