Wondering What’s Next In Your Impact Career? Start Here

By Erin Ewart

Record levels of turnover are expected this year as the economy recovers and more people feel comfortable leaving their jobs. 

After a challenging year that has helped all of us get more clarity on what’s important, many of these job seekers will be looking for work that is more aligned with their values, priorities, and purpose, and that allows them to make a positive impact on the world. 

If finding mission-driven work is your goal, we have a roadmap for you. Our Careers for Social Impact Career Transition Framework breaks down the process of moving toward your next impact career step into three distinct phases: Build Your Foundation, Define Your Direction, and Find Your Fit. 

To successfully use this process as you search for what’s next, you’ll need to focus on three key things: 

  1. Getting as clear as possible on what’s most important to you personally and professionally, so that you can keep these priorities at the center of your search.
  2. Telling a clear story about who you are, what you are best at, and the value you can bring to potential employers. 
  3. Taking a proactive approach to your job search, which includes seeking out organizations and roles that are a good fit for you instead of waiting to see what comes up or spending time on opportunities that aren’t a good match.

This might sound straightforward, but it’s not easy! While this approach yields much better results, it takes commitment. And focusing on what you want and then proactively finding roles that are the right fit for you may be a big shift from the way you’ve approached job searching in the past (it is for many of our clients!).

In our next few posts, we’ll be diving into each of the three steps of our framework to share more about what they are and how you can work through them to find meaningful work that’s the right fit for you. 

Today we’re starting with the first step: Building Your Foundation. This part is all about doing the work to get clear on what matters to you, and what you do best.

It’s so tempting to skip this step. It can feel much less tangible than working on your resume or scrolling LinkedIn.

But trust me, if you take the time to think about what you want before diving into a job search, it will pay off in a big way. You’ll be able to target your search, clearly explain what you’re looking for, and evaluate potential opportunities against a defined set of criteria. 

If you don’t take the time to build your foundation before jumping in, you’ll likely waste valuable time and momentum pursuing opportunities that aren’t right for you. You’ll struggle to answer that age-old question “so, what are you looking for?” in networking conversations and interviews. And you’ll risk ending up in a role that’s not a good fit, and having to go through this process all over again. 

This process of reflection and clarity takes some time and thought, but it doesn’t have to be cumbersome! There are three main questions you should think about:

1. What are your core values?

If you’ve never thought about it before this question can feel overwhelming, but it is often easier than you might think to drill down on your top values. We recommend this simple 10 minute exercise to help you create your list of top values. Even if you’ve done a similar exercise in the past, it’s worth revisiting as your values may shift depending on where you are in your life and career.

Think of your values as your guiding compass in this process. They are a way for you to decide and communicate about what’s most important to you. They are also an important tool to help you evaluate potential opportunities and employers later on in the process, to make sure they will be the right match for you. 

2. What are your biggest priorities for your career, and your life?

These can include the type of work you want to be doing, the mission you want to be a part of, the size, growth stage, or sector of organization you’d want to join, the ideal salary or benefits you want, and things like schedule flexibility or the ability to work remotely over the long-term.

Start by writing down what your ideal next role would look like; don’t censor yourself, and write whatever comes to mind. Then, map your priorities into “must haves” (no more than about five non-negotiables), “nice to haves” (things you can be more flexible on), and “dealbreakers” (absolute nos).

Writing down what’s important to you is incredibly powerful. It will help keep you honest as you continue in this process and ensure you’re making intentional decisions about what to pursue. (Hint: if you’re getting stuck here, your values are a good place to start: looking at each of those, how can you translate them into concrete priorities for your next role?). 

3. What do you most enjoy doing, and what brings you energy?

Or to frame it another way, what are your biggest strengths? This seems like it should be an easy question to answer, but it’s often quite challenging to get insight into our own strengths because they come so naturally to us. But we know that finding work that aligns with your core strengths is a huge driver of both career and life satisfaction, so it’s important to get clarity on this before going further. 

Here are three ways to get more insight on your top strengths:

    1. Reflect on the times in your life when you’ve felt most energized or proudest of your impact. What were you doing during those experiences? What skills did you use? What did they have in common? You’ll likely identify several themes or “through lines” through this exercise that can help you hone in on your strengths. 
    2. Ask others what they think you’re best at. You may be surprised at what you hear! Friends, family, and colleagues are all great people to ask. You can also review past feedback you’ve received through things like performance reviews or 360s to look for themes and trends. 
    3. Take an assessment like the CliftonStrengths Top 5 to get some objective data on your top strengths. Combining this information with the steps above should give you enough information to identify your top three to five strengths. 

After taking these steps, you’ll be armed with powerful information about who you are and what’s important to you – and you’ll be ready to move forward to identify organizations and opportunities that are aligned with what you want.

Stay tuned for our next post, when we’ll share more about how to take action to find those right-fit opportunities!

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