Back to School: The Mis(sion Capital)-Education of Social Impact

It’s about that time of year again! Austin traffic jams are slowing down commutes and I can’t find decent parking at The Drag, which means back-to-school season is upon us. Every year around this time, Mission Capital gets a lot of requests from college students wanting to learn more about nonprofits and the social impact sector in Central Texas. From coaching our interns to conducting various presentations at local universities, we’ve learned a lot about what folks may want to know about the social impact sector before getting involved. Consider this blog post the tips, tricks and Spark Notes for all the hungry, young and young-hearted minds ready to cut their teeth in social impact.

How do you make a career out of this?

This is one of the most common questions Mission Capital staffers are asked. The hard truth is that a set-in stone roadmap to becoming a do-gooder does not exist. Every person on Mission Capital’s staff has taken a different path to landing a role within the organization, and we all have wildly different backgrounds. Some of us were bankers in our former lives, others were politicos, educators, social workers or even bakers. But, the one thing we have in common is our commitment to the service of others.

Speaking from my own experience, I think there’s a distinction between helping people and serving others. When I was working in software sales, I was positive I was helping people by making sure they knew about a powerful tool that would make their businesses and work lives a lot easier, but it wasn’t fulfilling enough for me. With a past in grassroots organizing, I missed feeling embedded in a community and being a part of an impact from the ground floor. I applied for a role with Mission Capital that simultaneously fulfilled my desire to engage with my local community and offered me the opportunity to learn everything that I wanted to. The majority of my consideration for my current position was the values that I shared with Mission Capital and what this organization wants  to achieve and embody. I suppose that’s the best answer I can give to anyone trying to build out a social impact career: know yourself and know what you value.

How do you find the right place to work?

I am solidly in the camp that believes that people work for other people, and not necessarily for companies or organizations. It was a lot easier for me to figure out where I wanted to work when I knew who I wanted to work with. The social impact sector in Central Texas is not only tight-knit, but also takes many shapes and forms. I’m a firm believer that there’s a place for everyone somewhere, you just have to find what drives you. One of my favorite things about Mission Capital is our extended family, a constantly growing home of nonprofits, businesses, foundations and community leaders. I really think they are the best points of entry for blossoming do-gooders that want to serve Central Texans. Bringing us back to the point that the key to finding the right place to work in social impact is finding your right people.

How do you sustain yourself working in social impact?

I have a not-so secret secret to confess: working in the social sector is really hard. The issues are complex, and I know from my tears, lack of sleep, and wondering if I’ll ever see the impact of my everyday work that makes me question whether I’m doing the right thing. To combat my frustrations, I remind myself of one of my heroes’ favorite sayings: “Institutions matter.” I must remember that change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the toughest lesson I keep having to learn every single day in my young nonprofit career. There is, however, a light. As long as I am assured of my personal commitment to social impact and I know I’m surrounded by people who are equally dedicated, together we build our own institutions. To me, that’s progress. Keeping that reminder in the back of my head helps me stay focused on this work long-term.

If you’re considering a social sector career, I suggest starting off with an internship to gain some experience and discover what you’re passionate about, or maybe not so passionate about. Check out our job board to see the latest nonprofit internship job postings in Central Texas. But whatever next steps you decide, I can assure you that making an impact in others’ lives isn’t solely limited to your job title.


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