Exploring careers in social justice as an undergraduate

If you want to find work in social justice fields there are a multitude of ways to get there.

Non-profits are a great place to start.  Generally, the best way to get a job that serves your preferred cause is to volunteer or to take on a paid or unpaid internship in a non-profit that works within the particular area of your interest.  Non-profits, like most industries, like to rely on their existing network of contacts when filling newly open positions.  Getting some experience within an organization is an effective way to prove your value to them, and can lead to contacts that may be helpful after you have completed your volunteer work or internship, as well as your degree.  If you are unable to volunteer or intern at an organization consider setting up an informational interview with employees of these organizations to get an inside view on hiring practices and perhaps an internal referral for future opportunities.  Check out non-profit job boards like Idealist.org to find volunteer, internship, and job opportunities that can also make a difference for others!  You can also find career opportunities directly on the web pages of recognizable non-profits such as Planned Parenthood, The Nature Conservancy, and YMCA to name just a few.

Education is another way to help enrich and improve the lives of others.  Besides a career in teaching, the University of Washington has numerous co-curricular programs that are designed for community outreach.  One such program, Community Based Internships out of the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center, places UW undergraduates into paid internship opportunities within Seattle area non-profits for credit.  To find out more of what the Carlson Center has to offer, click here.  Most academic departments also engage in some sort of community involvement so it is worthwhile to check in with your academic advisors to find out what other internship, job, and volunteer opportunities may exist within your major.

For profit opportunities in social justice work also exist.  Corporate Social Responsibility  (CSR) is an emerging and maturing field in the business world.  This field helps define how companies act in environmental, social, and ethically responsible ways.  As consumers demand more information on everything from the environmental record of companies, to where and how their goods are produced, the number of companies with CSR divisions will only grow.  Because this is such a new and growing field in the business world, there are no traditional majors required to enter the field.  Check out the industry leading CSR programs of two big regional employers–Nike and Starbucks–to get a feel for how corporations are trying produce goods in ways that benefit people and the environment and not just shareholders.  For a daily feed on the latest news and events in CSR go to the CSR News Wire.

By Jon Olivera
Jon Olivera Career Coach Jon Olivera