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How to Work for a Cause You Love

These five pointers will help you find satisfaction and fulfillment in your next job. By Selena Chavis | Digital Exclusive

Cause

Let’s face it. If you work a full-time job, nearly 25 percent of your week is allotted to work. Put that truth in perspective over the course of an adult life, and it stands to reason that any professional would want to prioritize job satisfaction.

Unfortunately, according to a Conference Board study, more than half of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. Not surprisingly, one of the top 10 reasons for this angst rests with the fact that employee values don’t always align with a company’s culture and priorities. For instance, an employee who feels strongly about the environment is unlikely to thrive working for a major oil company.

Finding a job with which you feel philosophically in tune may seem a little “pie in the sky,” but opportunities are out there. Here’s how to find them.

1. Soup up your knowledge

The good news is that the playing field is becoming increasingly wide for companies that align themselves with a culture of generosity.

While nonprofit groups may offer a good starting point, there’s a high probability that a corporate entity exists that shares your convictions. In fact, many companies today are intrinsically designed around the concept of giving back. Better World Books, for instance, collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. If education is your passion, this company is a sure win. It’s a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line organization that matches every purchase on its website with a book donation to someone in need.

Start by identifying causes that matter to you. Then research organizations that have similar missions or that may take up projects that align with your interests. Identifying the right match isn’t as hard as you think.

2. Get in touch with the right people

While it’s common advice, the importance of networking cannot be overstated. Companies increasingly look to internal referrals and leads from trusted resources to identify the best job candidates and fill sought-after positions.

As such, the ability to make the right connections is paramount in ensuring you end up in a meaningful job. The best strategy is to get involved with community, professional and nonprofit organizations through some type of volunteer work, whether that means serving on the board of directors or getting down in the trenches, fundraising, working events, or whatever the need might be.

Your local United Way, for example, is an umbrella organization that funds a number of charitable groups through local businesses, meaning that your involvement may open the door to exactly the job you’ve always dreamed of.

3. Give it a test run

On the surface, a company’s culture may seem like the perfect fit. Yet an informed determination can only be made by experiencing the day-to-day routine of company operations. Which means you might consider giving a company a test run through volunteerism or an internship.

Many large companies offer a variety of internship and co-op opportunities, and have well-established corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs built around specific initiatives. GE, for example, might be a good fit for someone interested in environmental issues. The company’s Ecomagination growth strategy focuses on enhancing resource productivity and reducing environmental impact through commercial solutions for customers and operational solutions internally. As part of this strategy, GE invests in cleaner technology and business innovation to help tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges across the energy, transportation, water, healthcare and lighting industries.

4. Reach out

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If all else fails on the networking front, cold calling certainly can’t hurt—especially if you’re strategic about it. Communicate why you’re the right fit for the company—whether in terms of its culture, its mission, or both. You might start with a cover letter and resume that’s followed up with a phone call or request for a face-to-face meeting, for example.

Accounting giant Grant Thornton has a well-developed CSR strategy that focuses on a variety of initiatives from education and healthcare to helping communities grow. Equipped with this knowledge, accounting professionals can customize resumes and correspondence to address why the company interests them on that level.

5. Leave no stone unturned

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Continue looking for open doors, and follow-up regularly. Also, keep on building up your resume with additional work experience and professional development.

 If your passion is improving the global outlook on clean water in impoverished countries, for example, this may mean volunteering regularly with an organization like People Water. Every bottle of water the organization sells helps to fund one of its global clean water projects, whether that entails building or repairing a well or establishing a water purification system in an area plagued by poor water quality. Or, if your passion is helping the unemployed, find ways to support an organization like Twillory that assists those who have lost jobs or homes to get back on their feet.

Opportunities abound to align your passion with your work. You just need to be strategic about where and how you look for them.