June 5, 2018

4 careers where you can make a difference in your communities

Looking for more of a calling than simply a career? Job seekers can look to these titles as a way to both earn a living and give back

PLEN teaches young women through seminars featuring women leaders who are making a difference in all sectors, from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches; agencies; nonprofit organizations; and the private sector.

From #MeToo, to Black Lives Matter, to March for Our Lives, activism is central to our democracy and young people are some of the most prominent faces of these important movements. Working with college women, PLEN sees firsthand how passionate, engaged, and excited the next generation is. Whether it’s running advocacy campaigns on campus, organizing a group to travel to a protest, or running as student body president, many students know what they’re passionate about and are intent on sharing that with others.

We hear over and over again from the young women who participate in our programs that they want to continue to make a difference in their communities. Sometimes they just aren’t sure how turn the passion and skills they’ve developed on campus into a career after graduation. We’re here to tell you: your drive to make change doesn’t have to end there! Here are four jobs that you can pursue right after you graduate that will allow you to continue to make a difference in your community and launch a meaningful career.

Hit the Ground Running: Campaign Jobs

While primaries for the November 2018 election have already taken place in many states, there are still several important ones left. Working on a campaign allows you to become the connector between politics, policy, and your community while learning important skills like fundraising, volunteer management, and voter targeting all while communicating your candidate’s passions and ideas to their constituents. You can also learn more about the issues that are important to your community in case you want to run yourself someday! If you’re ready to hit the ground running (figuratively and literally) and learn more about your own community, then beginning a career in the campaign world is a great option.

Job titles to look for on a campaign: volunteer coordinator, finance assistant, deputy finance director, press secretary, field organizer, campaign scheduler, advance team

Create a Community Around an Issue: Organizing and Advocacy

Think about an issue you care deeply about. You know the issue like the back of your hand; you know its history, its relevance today, and you’re experienced in talking about why others should care about it, too. If this sounds like you, then a career in organizing & advocacy may be worth pursuing. Maybe there is a group in your community already working on the issue, or maybe you decide to start one yourself. Organizing allows you to develop important relationships with community members, local businesses, and schools to make your issue relevant to all members of your community. You’ll be on the front lines of planning educational events, protests, and visiting your local elected officials’ offices to advocate for your issue. You’ll work directly with members of your community to empower them to become leaders and voices of change.

Job titles to look for in community organizing: field organizer, field director, community organizer

Learn How the Policy Process Works: Local or State Government

Are you passionate about the nitty gritty of community economic development, education, public finance, or transportation? Then you might consider working for your local or state government. Whether it’s a job in the Mayor’s office or at the state capitol, this is a great way to help lawmakers and their constituents find policy solutions to the tough issues plaguing your community. You’ll get to research and analyze legislation, examine how policy is regulated, and see first-hand how it’s implemented. If you want to work on Capitol Hill and aren’t quite ready to make the move to Washington, DC, this is a great way to gain some related experience and transferable skills.

Jobs to look for in your local or state government: program specialist, program assistant, staff assistant

Help Others Every Day: Direct Service Nonprofits

If there’s an issue that people in your community are facing everyday, whether it’s affordable housing, access to education, or providing resources for returning veterans, there’s probably a nonprofit in your area working directly with that population. If you’re ready to work with members of your community on a daily basis to help them work through confusing policies, access important resources, and feel supported, look toward opportunities available at direct service nonprofits in your community. Many nonprofits also advocate for policy change to local, state, and national policymakers based on the experiences of their clients. You can become a more effective advocate by understanding how policy is implemented on the ground and how it can be improved.

Jobs to look for in nonprofits: development coordinator, program coordinator, outreach assistant, case manager

Your passion for changemaking doesn’t have to stop when you graduate from college. There are so many options (way more than in the list above!) that allow you to harness your passion for driving change into a meaningful career. One thing we always tell our students is that your career isn’t a linear path: it’s a jungle gym. You may fall off along the way or not take the most direct route to the top, but you’ll make it! In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to empower, inspire, and drive change in your first job and beyond, and your passion will energize those around you!

Sarah Bruno

Public Leadership Education Network

Named one of Nonprofit HR’s “7 Inspiring Nonprofit Women to Watch in 2018,” Sarah Bruno is the Executive Director of the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN.) Prior to PLEN, Sarah consulted with nonprofit organizations and held positions at the Truman National Security Project & Center for National Policy, America Votes, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. A lifelong feminist and longtime advocate for social justice, Sarah lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog Dorrie.
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