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From Classroom to Career: 5 Tips for Students Interested in Social Good

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It can be challenging as a college student to imagine a career beyond roles that reflect the exact title of your major. For many students also living their college experience amidst the pandemic, a national racial reckoning, global humanitarian crisis and increasing climate concerns, it can be even more perplexing to consider how you might discover a career that allows you to have a real positive impact on the world we’re inheriting.

Students and young professionals drawn to values-driven work are not alone. 60% of respondents in the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer said they would choose a place to work based on their beliefs and values. While some students may not realize it, within your broad major and expertise there are opportunities to leverage your stellar writing skills, analytical eye, organizational expertise, or financial instincts for social good. You just may not know where to start, and that’s okay.

At the start of my undergrad experience, I had no idea a position like my current one existed in the communications world. As an assistant manager of marketing and communications at the Ad Council, I get to use my love for writing and relationship building to drive impact around the causes that I care deeply about every day. Regardless of your major, there is a space for you to contribute to the world of cause-driven marketing, too.

Not sure where to begin? Here are just a few tips to kickstart your career in social good and use your skills at the intersection of cause and creativity.

1. STAY CURRENT ON CURRENT EVENTS

Contributing to society’s most pressing issues means being educated on them too. Many news outlets offer discounted or free student rates that make it easy to stay up to date on the latest current events. Following a diverse set of news sources via regular reading or listening, email alerts, podcasts and social media will give you an understanding for where action is needed and how you can help a future employer respond. There are endless ways to stay in the loop these days, so find the medium that works best for you. Integrating this into your daily routine and feed now will make for an easy transition into a career that revolves around what’s happening in the world.

2. EMBRACE CHALLENGING CONVERSATIONS

Working on campaigns with such a real-world impact can be both energizing and difficult. As you consider a career that requires expertise around such nuanced topics, seek experiences that will allow you to lean into discomfort and develop techniques for coming into conversations prepared. When mapping out your next semester, explore courses and student organizations that will give you the opportunity to learn about and discuss social issues on a deeper level.

Diego Villegas, Ad Council assistant campaign manager & previous intern (‘21) advises:

“Be ready to sit in and have difficult conversations around the issues that you are working on. Part of working in a social good sphere is having to face the reality of the issues that you are addressing, and this can mean having very hard conversations about a multitude of things that can be causing the issue. You see the people it touches and how it really plays a role in people’s lives. Keep that in mind, since that’s the reason the work is being done, to make a positive change in the world for the individuals facing these issues.”

3. CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAUSES YOU CARE ABOUT

Any social good campaign will benefit from someone with first-hand experience working with or for the cause at hand. Even before you enter the working world, you can explore hands-on opportunities on campus and in your local community to discover the causes you’re truly passionate about and how you can best serve them. Get involved with a local non-profit or volunteer with a service organization at school. Keeping people at the heart of the work that you do now will help you make empathetic and informed decisions as a professional, all while being an active member of your community.

4. THINK BEYOND YOUR MAJOR

There’s no one path into a career in social good and there’s certainly no one “right” major. On a single public service campaign, there are experts working together from advertising, analytics, finance, media strategy, public relations, and technology, just to name a few. Use your coursework as a building block and get creative when thinking about the roles where you can contribute.

Catherine Yarovoi, Ad Council campaign analyst & previous intern (‘17), says it best:

“There’s a lot of research and work going on behind the scenes of the work we do, and there’s opportunities to work on social good campaigns from a lot of different angles. Explore your options --internships are a great first exposure!”

5. SEEK INTERNSHIPS

It’s cliché, but true: you’ll never know until you try. A critical part of starting your career path is learning what does and doesn’t work for you. Internships are a great way to get your feet wet, and the Ad Council is the perfect environment to give it a try.

Take it from Alexandra Chiarappa, a previous marketing and communications intern (’21): “You will gain firsthand experience working on important and relevant social good campaigns in a collaborative work environment which encourages interns to partake in all aspects of PSA production and distribution. My time at the Ad Council will always remain an important milestone in my career, as I developed professionally while contributing to important causes.”

The Ad Council’s Raquel Zarin Summer Internship Program is a paid, 9-week, remote internship opportunity. Applications for this summer’s program, which will run from June to August 2022, are open across a variety of departments. If you’re looking for a chance to gain applicable work experience, contribute to real, client-facing projects, develop solid time management skills and learn how to maintain a healthy work/life balance consider applying here.

No matter where you are on your journey from classroom to career, there will always be more to learn. Stay curious and compassionate and you’ll be sure to have an impact. Good luck!