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9 Steps to Begin a Compassionate Career

A new book's authors on making a living by making a difference

(This is an adaptation from Compassionate Careers: Making a Living by Making a Difference by Jeffrey W. Pryor and Alexandra Mitchell.)
There are millions of nonprofits, foundations and corporate responsibility and social enterprise organizations that present fulfilling career opportunities. Most people know about volunteer work, of course, but awareness of paid cause-focused positions and “compassionate careers” is next to nil.
Here is our nine-step guide to landing the right compassionate career for you so you can make a living by making a difference:
1. Check in with your core

Take a few minutes to complete the following sentences; be sure to stop and reflect on your answers before moving on.
It’s important for me to find a career that…
At the end of the day, I want to feel like I…
I want to be remembered for…

(MORE: Finding What You Were Born to Do)
2. Know your style

Being aware of your own characteristics (for example, how you work with others), will help you find a good culture fit with a group that also fits your interests and goals. This link, www.compassionatecareersthebook.org/assessment will bring you to the RoundPegg assessment, which takes about 10 minutes to complete.
3. Consider what’s holding you back

Think about the extent to which you’ve been following a particular path due to external expectations. What role do they play and how powerful are they? To what degree have you internalized those expectations and made them your own?

4. Find your own true north

What are the topic areas in which you’re most interested? Here’s a list of possibilities:
Animal welfare; arts and culture; community development; corporate responsibility; diversity, equity and social justice; early childhood support; education; environment and nature; faith-based services; foreign aid; health care; human services; international relations; mental health; philanthropy; senior services; substance abuse; veterans affairs; youth services

(MORE: Find Volunteer Opportunities)
5. Think about what concerns you most

A compassionate career allows you to participate in the healing of the world. Think about the global challenges we face today. Is there something you feel indignant about or just can’t tolerate?
Now think of realistic changes you can make in your life on a regular basis that start to address some of your concerns. Next, brainstorm what type of organization or business you might create around the little (or big) life change you’re thinking about. Then consider what types of cause-driven organizations are already working in this field and whether it might make sense to join forces with them.

6. Explore your options

We encourage you to browse the websites of your local community foundation, state nonprofit association, university career center and Chamber of Commerce to get a feel for the breadth and scope of cause-driven organizations and types of compassionate career opportunities.
Now think about which skills, experiences, and knowledge you already have that would be useful in a purpose-driven endeavor and which you need to add to your repertoire.
When you gain some clarity about which topics and types of organizations interest you most, study their missions, histories, programs, goal, and priorities. If possible, pay them a visit in person and ask to speak with different levels of staff members to find out what they do and whether they enjoy their jobs and the culture of their organization. Also, try to find individuals to talk to who reflect your age, gender and cultural background.
Once you have found an organization you feel is the right fit, be sure you have all or most of these attributes or are working toward them and refine your resumé and cover letter to tailor your language to the organization you’re interested in.
7. Navigate your way forward

After you land a job, think about what would be a smart and meaningful way for you to approach building your career. At minimum, we highly recommend that you tap into an existing peer-networking system, get involved in your community and keep gaining new knowledge and skills.
Engaging mentors and coaches is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself. Brainstorm a number of individuals whom you might approach to request this type of relationship for about one year.
Additionally, we recommend you create a detailed plan of action for yourself. Set target goals and strategies for three months, six months, 12 months and 18 months.

(MORE: Tips for Hiring a Career Coach)

8. Consider starting your own venture

Once you’ve gained enough experience, have a financial foundation you can live off of for a while and have a brilliant idea that just won’t let you sleep at night, you might be ready to set out on your own.
If so, you’ll want to learn and seriously consider: the basics of start-up ventures (expertise and capital you’ll need, tax regulations, legal and technology requirements, etc.); the product or service itself; your competition organizational requirements; funding and going the distance (do you have the vision, passion, motivation, patience, resilience, grit, confidence, and leadership capacity to see your idea become a reality?).
9. Contemplate crossing borders

If you think you might want to go global with a compassionate career, honestly assess your desire to do so and your aptitude for an international assignment.
Going global takes courage, determination, long-term planning and a good deal of tolerance and adaptability.
The next time you travel for work or take a vacation, you may want to make a point of visiting a few different cause-driven organizations in the area. You never know what opportunities may present themselves.

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