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Careers with social impact

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Discover other sectors

This sector not for you?  Don't worry, there are plenty of others to explore.

If you are looking at this page, you may want to work for an organisation you feel has a positive effect or influence on society, nationally or globally; or you may be looking for a career focusing on environmental or social responsibility. You could put these aims into practice in many (if not all) of the job sectors on the Careers and Placements web pages, in non-profit, public and private sector organisations.

The roles that would enable you to make a positive impact are many and varied. For example, within the area of human rights, you could be a human rights lawyer, representing political prisoners; a PR professional, promoting the work of a water charity; working in a think tank to influence policy making; a research assistant working for the United Nations…

Here we highlight some particular aspects to consider, and useful resources in the areas of ethical careers, human rights and social research. 

What you need to know

Find out about careers with social impact

Key resources

  • Look at what the organisation does, what it supports, how it is funded, organisation values and code of ethics.
    • Organisations such as Business in the Community can be helpful as they include over 800 members committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
    • Companies, charities and public sector organisations can be members of the Good Business Charter, providing accreditation for responsible business practices. It measures behaviour over 10 components: real living wage, fairer hours and contracts, employee well-being, employee representation, diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility, paying fair tax, commitment to customers, ethical sourcing, and prompt payment. 
    • An increasing number of organisations in the UK are Certified B Corporations, businesses meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and accountability.

Other resources

  • Ethical Consumer for information on the ethical integrity of various companies
  • 80,000 hours careers advice around "effective altruism" and how to choose a career that has impact

What skills do I need?

Specific skills and qualifications will vary depending on the roles or organisations you are considering. See individual sector pages on this website, and job profiles on Prospects. In addition you are likely to need

  • Self awareness
  • Communication and relationship building skills
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Resilience
  • Research skills

The employability skills page has more about these.

Work experience

Finding jobs and further study

When job hunting, take into account the organisation’s: 

  • Environmental impact – of operations, products or services 
  • Marketplace and business conduct – responsible behaviour in developing, purchasing, selling, marketing 
  • Social or community impact – local or global 
  • Ethical governance – conduct and ethics at all levels in the workplace 
  • Workplace practices – equal opportunity and anti-discriminatory practices

Look at companies’ activities in the light of your own definition of ‘ethical’ practices. The Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, the UK’s professional body for this area, offers free student membership.

Don't forget to look at the Finding jobs sections on the other job sector pages.

General jobs boards

Specific sectors and organisations

Further study

  • You may want to consider further study in Ethics, for example in the fields of ethics and law, healthcare or cybersecurity.
  • Some people move into human rights work later in their career, after some years of experience with a professional qualification, eg law.
  • It is possible to work as a social researcher after completing a degree in a relevant discipline, especially if your course includes social research methods and statistics. However many employers now expect entrants to have a more detailed knowledge of research techniques, which may be acquired by taking a taught Masters course in social research methods, or by doing a research degree (MPhil, PhD).

What can I do at York?

  • Volunteer to show your commitment to making a difference
  • Get involved with a human rights organisation; sign up for newsletters; follow relevant campaigns and activists on twitter; join campaigning groups and events, such as Amnesty, or People and Planet
  • Look for internships with the Student Internship Bureau to gain experience and relevant skills
  • Do you have a business idea driven by a social or environmental purpose? Look into how you could set up a social enterprise and see your business make a difference. As a student at York, you can get support to help launch your idea
  • Recent graduates may begin in administrative positions to gain experience in an organisation, so take opportunities to develop good IT and administrative skills whilst at university
  • If you’re interested in working abroad or for an international organisation, learning additional language(s) may also benefit you (see the Languages for All courses).

More resources: people to follow, podcasts, event recordings

People to follow

Connect with York graduates on York Profiles & Mentors

and there are lots more - browse the profiles or look at specific sectors to find examples of people making a positive impact in their career.

You can also find and connect with York alumni on LinkedIn.

Podcasts and events

Podcasts

Listen to relevant episodes of our What do you actually do? podcast series, for example:

Events

Attend relevant careers events as these can be great networking and information gathering opportunities – our sector events and the Global Opportunities fair give you the chance to hear from and meet professionals working in these sectors. In many departments we also run smaller alumni events, giving you another opportunity to meet graduates working in a range of sectors including Foreign Office, journalists, researchers, lawyers, charity campaigners, PR professionals. There are more details on these and other events in Handshake.