Photo Credit: Net Impact, Facebook Page

Last weekend I attended the Net Impact 20th Anniversary Conference in Baltimore. While I spoke on a panel about untraditional ways of getting experience in order to break into the impact sector, I was amazed by the brilliance of many of the speakers I heard. There were lessons to be learned for individuals who want to make a difference and organizations looking to strengthen their work. Below are a few tips I think are useful for young people who want to find a meaningful careers and a few resources to help you take action.

Focus on your purpose: In the panel Five Things I Wish I Knew When I Launched My Social Enterprise, KaBoom! Founder Darell Hammond encouraged the audience to focus on purpose, not just profession:

“Declare your purpose and use your career to hold you accountable to that purpose.”

I remember Mayor Cory Booker saying something similar in a talk he gave a few years ago. Too often we focus on the activities, not enough on the impact or change we want to bring. The same approach applies to sectors; with so many ways to bring about change, it’s no wonder more and more people are working across sectors in an effort to drive impact. This is not to say we shouldn’t be mindful of our skills and where we thrive; however we should be guided by the difference we want to make.

How do you figure out your purpose? I really like Echoing Green’s Work on Purpose program. You dig into big questions about impact, read stories of people who have discovered their purpose, while exploring resources and building a community purpose-minded people.

Realize your career moves in stages: When we’re just starting out, it’s easy to invest in our first job, as though this is the make-or-break move in our careers. Sometimes this belief paralyzes us from simply trying new things and gaining experience. However, Ashley Jablow, Community Manager at IDEO reminded the audience that our careers evolve and move in stages. Your first job is not the end or even the beginning of your career and you will encounter this omg-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life feeling again.

How do you figure out the kind of work you want to do and different paths to doing it? I recommend the Five Lens Framework from Idealist.org [where I work] and NYU where you explore careers through five categories: organization, role, system, issue, and population. With these broad categories, you can create a dynamic social-impact career without feeling as though you have to stay in one type of organization or role.

Make the most of social media: The most technical conversation I attended was a workshop led by John Hill from LinkedIn. While guiding us through some of the changes to LinkedIn he shared an interesting fact about how social media is used in hiring, specifically that 85% of Fortune 500 companies use social media to vet candidates. Additionally, a study found that hiring managers question candidates who aren’t on social media.

What does this mean? It means you can give yourself an edge in the job hunt by using social media thoughtfully. In addition to sharing information about yourself, you can use it to build your network. For example, did you know that LinkedIn has an Alumni Dashboard that allows you to search for fellow graduates by location and industry? This is a powerful way to strengthen your job search while exploring various career paths.

How do you use social media meaningfully? John noted that a personal brand is a form of job-hunting currency. So before you jump in, think a bit about what you want to be known for and where the community you want to engage with hangs out. Rosetta Thurman has a great Social Media 101 series to help you get started.

Did you attend the Net Impact conference? What did you think?