Insights from the social sector

Had the pleasure of attending a beautifully curated event on careers in the social sector recently.  Social sector is a blanket term used for NGOs, philanthropic foundations, social businesses, non-profits, humanitarian and international development organisations. These could be smaller, local outfits, or large global ones like Amnesty, UN agencies, WWF, Greenpeace, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the like.

There were several insights that I came away with. Sharing some here: .

  1. I work mostly in the corporate and US federal space. There is a smattering of social sector as well but limited enough for me to want to explore more. Listening to questions and discussions I realized that career challenges across sectors are similar. Yes, there sure are nuances, but organisations are run by humans and our issues, worries, aspirations are similar irrespective of sector.
  2. We may think there are challenges in moving from corporate to social sector, but the concept of transferrable skills applies as much here as it would if you were moving across industries or roles in the corporate sector.
  3. You will not be welcomed with open arms just because you are a hotshot in the corporate world who now wants to move sectors. The biggest mindset challenge you could face is letting go of the idea that you can ‘tell’ them how to do something better.
  4. Extending the point above, you cannot come from a place of superiority, carrying a saviour complex about the communities you are serving. Humility is key. Listening is critical. Caring, essential.
  5. The same job search principles apply as in corporate – know your why, target the right organisations, network, use LinkedIn, stay open to non- linear opportunities, prepare.
  6. The social sector has its share of very and many highly qualified talented people. That doesn’t mean though that only qualifications and experience would get you through the interviews and selection processes. Prepare to put your best foot forward. You could face multiple and rigorous interviews and be pitted against the best.
  7. “Don’t bring me someone who wants to leave their job, bring me someone who wants to work with us!” –  Hiring Manager to Recruiter

And finally, a deeply touching quote by  a deeply inspiring keynote speaker: “ If you want to change someone’s mind, you first need to touch their heart.”


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