I was recently asked to become a mentor for the Women's Accelerator group here in Los Angeles. The group is filled with powerhouse women across a variety professional sectors, each dedicated to giving back the wisdom they've so freely been given over the years. I've had the privilege of working with many female mentors over the years, and felt honored to have the opportunity to participate.
I was paired with a young professional eager to enter the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) field here in Los Angeles. Our goal in working together over the next 6 months is to help her transition her career from event planning to a role in CSR. Since these types of jobs are rarely posted online, and often given to existing employees within companies, I've been giving a lot a thought to the type of advice and support I can give.
I consider myself lucky that I was given the opportunity to follow my passion and start the Cause Marketing department at AOL with no prior experience in the field. What I lacked in formal experience I made up in business acumen, having spent the previous 3 years in advertising sales at the company. The sales role made me acutely aware of how the company made money, a key element of how I pitched the role and ultimately laid the groundwork for the AOL Charitable Foundation.
My experience getting into CSR from within an existing company is not entirely unique. It is a relatively new field and one that is evolving every day. More and more schools are creating degrees to better prepare students for these types of roles, but the reality is we're all more or less paving new paths as we go along. With that said, here a few suggestions I've come up with for those interested in making this career transition, as well as a comprehensive list below of resources you may find helpful!
1) Get connected. As in most fields, it really comes down to who you know. What does this mean for you? Look up local CSR chapters or groups where you live. Identify a few conferences you think are worthy of your time. Don't be afraid to say you are you looking to make a career change, and are eager to learn as much as you can. LinkedIn is also a great place to identify who has your dream job
2) Get educated. Unless you've had the luxury of going to school to become a CSR professional, chances are you are learning as you go. That's certainly what I did, but there is no reason to fly totally blind. There are ton of great resources online to check out, books, as well as short-term certificate programs to provide you with basic fundamentals.
3) Get going. I'm a big believer in maximizing value at your current workplace before you make the jump. What can you do at your existing job to get the type of hands-on work required of a CSR professional? Is there an internal employee who manages CSR initiatives that you can talk to and shadow? If the answer is no, what types of ideas do you have for making the company better? An employee volunteerism program, or perhaps an employee matching program whereby employees are incentivized to give back to their favorite charities? Investigate who is (or would be) making these types of decisions and offer to help. The reality is the majority of CSR professionals are hand-picked from within their company, so make sure your employer knows that could be you!
I am always happy to talk more on this topic. Please feel free to email me with specific questions or additional advice. As far as I'm concerned, the more I can do my part to help like-minded people drive impact through business, the better!
● Net Impact: https://www.netimpact.org
● Conscious Capitalism: http://www.consciouscapitalism.org . ** I also recommend attending their annual conference and reading the Conscious Capitalism book written by Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey
● Meetup CSR Groups: http://www.meetup.com/CSR-Unplugged/ ** Note different cities offer different meet-ups, so worthy of doing your homework
● CSRwire: http://www.csrwire.com/
● HuffPost Impact: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/impact/
● We First: http://wefirstbranding.com/blog/
● Profit & Purpose Newsletter: http://kylewestaway.com/weekend-briefing
● Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship: http://ccc.bc.edu/ ** Note BCCC offers certificate programs which I completed early in my CSR career
● Cause Marketing Forum: www.causemarketingforum.com ** Note the Cause Marketing Forum offers 101 educational programs which I took early in my CSR career
● Sustainable Brands: http://www.sustainablebrands.com/
If you have any other recommended readings or events, please share in the comments section!