Seven ways to include a job in social impact in your early career

If you’re thinking about a career in charities and social impact then you’re probably motivated by things other than what you earn. But, you still need to make a living, after all, money doesn’t grow on trees and those vegan trainers won’t buy themselves.

There are a few ways to involve working with a charity in your early career when you first leave school, college or uni. We don’t think all of these are ideal because what we’d like to see is more and better paid entry level jobs in charities, but until the world catches up with our vision, here are some of the ways that others like you are making it work.

Full timer: It’s just your average nine to five. Except you’re making the world a better place. So not so average at all, really. This involves getting a full time junior role in a charity. These are competitive so if you don’t find one easily, don’t assume it’s just you. Although if you do want to polish up your application and interview skills to give yourself the best shot, if you’re aged 18-25 you can become a free member of Room for Change and access free employment advice.

Freelancer: This is when you’re self-employed and offer services to clients who pay you directly. Many charities use freelancers, especially for tasks needing a specific skill set like graphic design, web development or research. You don’t have to freelance full time of course, you can do it while you look for other roles in the sector or on top of other work. Experienced freelancers will often share tips on what you should charge and how to manage your clients, as well as other aspects of #freelancelife so look out for freelancer communities on Facebook and other forums, as well as free online resources with freelancer tips.

Side-gigger: The charity sector often has a lot of part time roles due to the way charities are funded. You can combine a couple of part time roles (see next point) or can take on a role in social impact alongside a job in another sector. This can be a good way to build your contacts and experience in the sector and do something you’re passionate about while earning what you need to. Additionally, some jobs in the sector, especially frontline roles working directly with people, can be quite emotionally exhausting at times. So some employees in these kinds of roles do it alongside another job that doesn’t need the same emotional energy.

Multi-jobber: As mentioned, there can often be a lot of part time roles in the charity sector. This means it’s common for people to work two or more social impact jobs. This has its downsides for sure, for example some people think it’s more tiring than when they’ve worked one role but it can be done and we’ve put it here so that you know that if that’s what you need to do, it’s fine to be upfront with your employers about that. This could include for example, saying on application forms what days you can and can’t work or asking if it’s possible to switch up hours in a current role to fit another one. Charities offering part time jobs will be used to this and the good ones will be as flexible as possible about it.

Activist-rent payer: it might be your dream to opt out of society all together and put all your energy into activism. But you might not be in a position where you are able or wish to live with the reality of what that might involve. Having a day job in a charity, ideally something that leaves you with headspace and energy for your activism, could be an option that gives you financial security without compromising your values. Your job in social impact might never be the main focus of your career and that’s ok. Many people in the sector do tons in their own communities or in social movements and most charities will value the passion, knowledge and networks this will bring to your work with them.

Founder: you could build your own social impact organisation working on the issues you are passionate about. There are a ton of organisations that can help you do this, whether you opt to start a charity, a social enterprise or something more informal. This can also combine really well with a day job in a charity to keep the bills paid while you get things off the ground. In fact, a lot of people do both for their whole careers. Making enough income to live on from your own organisation might involve formalising things or taking up activities that don’t fit your original vision. In that case, running your own organisations while holding down an ethical role that fits your values can be a way to balance everything you want in your life.