The Center for Impact Careers

Impact Career Exploration

There is no “one-size-fits-all” impact career. “Impact” can mean something different to everyone depending on their personal mission and values. To identify your best fit within the Impact Sector, consider three aspects – the issues you feel obligated to impact, the types of organizations making impact, and the functional roles that align with your strengths and interests.

Impact Organizations

The Impact Sector is made up of a spectrum of government agencies, nonprofit organizations and newer business models that consider social and/or environmental impact along with profitability. The impact of these organizations could be related to any issue area but the emphasis on stakeholders (i.e. people & environment) vs. shareholders (i.e. profits) vary across the spectrum depending on the primary purpose of the organization.

Impact Issues

Individual values and passions are important elements of impact career success.  Understanding the issues that motivate and inspire you to work for change can be an integral first step in your impact career development. Environmental and societal concerns are diverse, but most can be categorized under the following primary areas of impact:

 Impact Roles

Any job can be an impact job! Depending on your values and interests and your educational training, skills and experiences, you may find your impact job anywhere along the following spectrum:

  • Impact job at a mission-driven organization – e.g. grant writer for a nonprofit, environmental educator at a national park, urban planner for a city)
  • Traditional job at a mission-driven organization – e.g. accountant at a nonprofit, human resources for a government agency, social media coordinator for a social enterprise
  • Impact job at a profit-driven organization – e.g. VP of sustainability or community outreach director at a corporation

GETTING STARTED: Where are you today? What do you know/have? What do you need to know/get?

  • What are my issues of interest? (e.g. children and youth, hospital administration, housing, international development) What change do I want to make happen? (e.g. improve access to health care, reduce juvenile delinquency)
  • What kinds of organizations are doing that kind of work? Who could/should be doing more? Is there room to innovate or create something new?
  • Is geographic location important? (e.g. Knoxville or Tennessee exclusively, southeastern US region, urban vs. rural communities, Sub-Saharan Africa)
  • What roles might I want to play in an organization? (e.g. financial manager, policy analyst, urban planner, fundraiser, sustainability coordinator, executive director) What are my skills, abilities, experiences? (writing, database management, social media campaigns, leadership, etc?)
  • What do these employers look for when making hiring decisions? Do my skills match or do I need additional education, experience, contacts, etc? When (annually, as needed, grant-based, temporarily?)and how (campus recruiting, job boards, word-of-mouth, from within/promotions?) do they hire?
  • What is my most immediate priority/needs? (e.g. career ladder job, earned income, training, a personal value, etc?)
  • What work values are important to me? (e.g. professional development, creativity, independence, recognition, stability, organizational culture and values?)


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