Irish Impact Throwback Thursday-10 things to remember as you pursue a career in Social Entrepreneurship

With the Irish Impact SE Conference right away the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your career possibilities in social entrepreneurship and impact investing! Experts from around the country will gather October 29th and 30th to speak about their experience working as social entrepreneurs and impact investors. Irish Impact is bringing back a popular blog post that will help you during your job search, with 10 pieces of advice as well as links to the most up-to-date jobs and fellowship information!
University Photographer

1 – Employers in this sector are typically “just-in-time” hirers. This doesn’t mean that your job search needs to wait until the last minute, i.e. your graduation in May, but it does mean that you need to be patient throughout the process, as well as check back frequently for new openings. Don’t freak out if you don’t have your job or internship yet. It’s not a problem with your major; it’s most likely not anything you are doing wrong; but the offers hinge on when the industry hires. SE doesn’t usually hire during the “college fall recruiting cycle!”

2 – The job search does not begin with the job application! There is plenty that a candidate can do to get ready for the application, including researching the industry, categories or sectors within the industry, and jobs that are typically available within the sector. For example, social entrepreneurship is an all-encompassing term for a number of different industries. Are you interested in health, technology, energy, microfinance, housing, etc., or some combination thereof? Are you interested in fund development, strategy, marketing, consulting, finance, etc.? By reviewing the jobs currently available, even if you aren’t ready to apply, it will give you a good idea of potential opportunities and help you to focus and refine your search.

Sep. 17, 2014; Gigot Center Irish Impact Conference. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Former Irish Impact Intern Colleen Wade at the Irish Impact Conference

3 – Start making connections with people in the field. As Anita Rees of The Career Center at the University of Notre Dame says, step away from “I’m looking for a job.” Instead focus on “I’m exploring the field.” This lowers barriers and induces conversation. These conversations might lead to specific opportunities, or referrals to other people in the field.

4 – Use LinkedIn to search alumni, industries or groups. If you are a Notre Dame alum, for example, you can type in the words “notre dame social entrepreneurship” and 5,070 results appear.  You can refine your search even further by typing in a specific company. Consider joining sector groups, as well, like “Irish Impact, Social Entrepreneurship at Notre Dame,” which gives you a list of members, discussion topics, and an opportunity to post your own topic.

5 – You are learning important skills for the next job search. We don’t stay in the same job for our entire career, and millenials will change jobs and careers several times. This will serve you well in the future.  Remember that you’re that much closer to your next job by virtue of going through this sometimes frustrating process now.

6 – Follow Up and Be Responsive! IMG_4663If someone isn’t responding, give them some time, then follow up. If someone responds back to you, remember they are taking time to help, so respond in a timely fashion! This is common-sense advice, but we all get busy and things tend to slip through the cracks as we attend to projects, exams, etc. I tell students all the time to ping me again if they haven’t heard back as I likely have gotten busy or forgotten. Conversely, if you are on the job search and making contacts, you can’t afford not to respond. If you know that you will be busy for several days after you send those 20 e-mails, don’t send them. Wait until you have the time to properly respond should people want to be of assistance right away.

7 – Take the time to write a thank you note. Steve Thomas, founder of Better Futures Minnesota, a social enterprise that works with the hard-to-employ, says that a hand-written thank you makes even more of an impression because people don’t take the time to do it anymore. He hangs his thank you notes on a billboard, and has seen his notes hanging in government offices. If you’re concerned about timeliness, send a quick e-mail, then follow up by hand.

SocialEntConf2012-17238 – Don’t despair! When you get that interview, and it doesn’t result in a job, it’s still great practice! Also, follow up with the hiring manager or interviewer to determine why you didn’t move on to the next round or get the position. Was it lack of experience? Was your case response off? Should you be considering alternate positions? There is much to be learned from why you weren’t hired, and following up can improve your candidacy for the next position, whether with the same organization or another employer. Interview skills improve with practice. Get more practice! The Notre Dame Career Center offers mock interviews. See if your career center offers this service and take advantage of the opportunity to hone your interview skills.

9 – Don’t be afraid to take some time off from the job search. This might mean a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks – it all depends on your situation. Many seniors walk into my office absolutely burnt out. If you’re approaching your job search seriously and thoroughly, it can begin to take a toll. Don’t be afraid to take a mini-vacation when it gets to be too overwhelming. That break will help you clear your head and give you renewed energy when you jump back in.

10 – Finally, this is not by any means, like the links below, an exhaustive list. SocialEntConf2012-1674There are many resources available to coach you through your job search process, particularly the college or university you attend(ed). Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Oftentimes students don’t take advantage of the resources right in front of them, like their career centers, and assume that the non-traditional job seeker is alone in the process. This is far from true! These offices work tirelessly with students – and alumni – to help connect them to the necessary resources. You still need to own the job search since no one can do it for you, but they are – and willing to be – part of the journey.

11 – Bonus!  Consider your own social enterprise. If you have an entrepreneurial inclination, a compelling solution for a social problem, and the restlessness and passion to pursue it, now could very well be the time for you to work on your idea.  This is especially relevant with all of the support and resources available at various colleges and universities around the country, as well as the many fellowships and incubators. Here at Notre Dame we provide support for nonprofit, for profit, and hybrid social enterprises through our McCloskey Business Plan Competition, undergraduate and graduate curriculum, experiential opportunities and internships, as well as our external networks, including the Irish Entrepreneurs NetworkIrishAngelsInnovation Park at Notre Dame, and our Irish Impact partner, Fellow Irish Social Hub (FISH). Please click on the links to learn more.

Job Board Sites:

Skoll World Forum
Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE)
BCorp Jobs Board
Echoing Green
Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)


Global Health Corps
IndiCorps (connect with and develop India)
Acumen Global Fellows Program
Vilgro Fellowship (work with an Indian social entrepreneur)
IDEO Fellows (design leaders of the future)
Ashoka Innovators for the Public
LeapFrog Fellowship (investing for the next billion)
Piramal Fellowship (engage where business and social impact intersect)
REDF Farber Fellowship (management skills and social enterprise)
IDEX Fellowship (work with enterprises that serve the poor)
Kiva Fellows (work with microfinance recipients)
Venture for America (build companies and revitalize cities)
Orr Fellowship (developing Indiana’s next generation of entrepreneurs)
Alliance for Catholic Education (teach in under-resourced communities)
enFocus (consulting fellowship focused on revitalizing South Bend)

Thanks to Samantha Smith of Forbes who inititated this list back in 2012.  We’ve made some edits, including deletions and additions.  All links are up-to-date as of this writing.  Feel free to add your own via comments and we’ll make sure they are posted. Featured image from and their blog post “3 tips for landing a job at a social enterprise“.

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