June 13, 2016

3 ways to turn your calling into a career

This Harvard-educated lawyer turned her passion for social justice into her life’s work

The founder of the Essie Justice Group wants to help women with loved ones behind bars escape the stigma, shame, and self-inflicted isolation to become advocates for ending mass incarceration. Photo courtesy of Gina Clayton

Gina Clayton is the founder of Essie Justice Group, an Oakland-based nonprofit that supports women with loved ones in prison and empowers them to become advocates for ending mass incarceration.

As we wrote in our profile of Clayton, her work is personal. During her first year at Harvard Law School, she got a call that a loved one was facing a long jail sentence. She said it was this experience that put her on a path of wanting to understand mass incarceration and the effect it had on communities of color.

Since graduating, Clayton has turned her legal expertise into a career, and then a calling. Here, she gives three tips on how recent college graduates can do the same.

— The Renewal Project editor Margaret Myers

1. Build or help build. Often, as social justice advocates, we become narrowly focused on what we are trying to eradicate, prevent, or stop. Spend as much time developing the solutions as the critiques.

2. Listen hard. The most effective people I have met have exceptional listening skills. But listening is more than an act—it is a mindset. It is about being curious, wanting always to improve, and seeing value in the people with whom you come in contact.

3. Align your unique skillsets and passion to discover your purpose. I consider my skill to be building. I consider my passion social justice. When I am flexing my skillset to further what I am deeply passionate about, I know I am living my purpose.

Gina Clayton

Founder of Essie Justice Group