The range of careers associated with social justice is enormous, from local government service to international human rights law, from developing green products and initiatives to providing resources and training in less-developed nations, from responding to natural disasters to ensuring the rights of women.
Some careers (e. g., social work or law) may require graduate training, so see our link for information about possible graduate programs. But there are many job possibilities for those with a BA degree.
These fields are competitive, so it is important to prepare. As the information below will emphasize, the three aspects of our social justice program (course work, volunteer involvement, and off-campus programs or internships) will all be important as you explore career directions and prepare for a career related to social justice. See our link for co-curricular possibilities in social justice.
When thinking about careers, it’s important to reflect on where you can make a difference, that is, on what contributions you can make. This will, of course, be related to your skills, temperament, academic training, and experiences. As the Greeks emphasized, know yourself, but also know (through academic work) the issues, causes, and structures that can inform solutions to social problems and (through co-curricular, volunteer, and internship efforts) life on the ground and how that enriches the intellectual understanding. For example, a student might really want to help homeless people, but they might discover that working on policy issues isn’t as satisfying as working directly with people in need or vice versa. In a more dramatic example, sometimes people think they want to go into healthcare, but by volunteering learn that they can’t stand the sight of blood. Supplementing academic study with related volunteer and internship experience is always helpful, because it gives students the opportunity to discover the most fruitful ways for them to make a contribution to the cause they are committed to.
Spend some time with the Career Advancement Center career exploration pages. http://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/cac/exploration/
Resources in the Ethics Center reading room may also be helpful. Consider, for example:
Making a Living while Making a Difference by Melissa Everett
100 Best Nonprofits to Work for, Find Your Dream Job—and Launch a Rewarding Career Doing Good! By Leslie Hamilton and Robert Tragert
Some general notes: Some aspects of a job search are fairly standard no matter what type of position one might be seeking. For general info about job searches, see our Career Advancement Center pages. http://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/cac/
But some aspects of a typical social justice job search can be different.
- Perhaps even more than for business, specific experience in areas related to your job search may be important. Such experience can be gained through participation in related co-curricular groups, volunteer efforts with local organizations, or internships. These efforts may begin as a way for you to figure out your focus, but as you clarify your career interests, find ways to contribute—and to gain experience—while an undergrad.
- Cover letters (and articulation of verbal interest) tend to matter more for social justice jobs, but it’s also harder for students to stand out, because it is more important that they show their specific interest in the particular organization, cause, or position. It’s not enough to make comments like, “I want to work for your organization, because I like to help people.” There needs to be more depth for their top-tier employers. (Again, relevant experience, in volunteer or internship efforts, will be important.)
- Whereas major companies will start recruiting college students in the fall for summer training classes, social justice employers that have structured programs will likely be running them as fellowships, grant-based projects, or limited term service programs — examples would be programs like Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Both business and typical social justice employers also do “just-in-time” hiring, which means that when students network before jobs exist, they are more likely to be selected, because they were in the pipeline early.
Useful Information from our Career Advancement Center:
Career Finder: Social Service and Public Administration
Career Finder: Government and Public Administration
Career Finder: Law
Other useful materials:
Human Rights and Social Justice Organizations
Williams College social service career site
Useful general sites
Common Good Careers http://www.cgcareers.org/
Non-Profit Jobs http://www.nonprofitjobs.org/
Making the Difference http://www.makingthedifference.org/index.shtml
Non-Profit Career Network http://www.nonprofitcareer.com/
Non-Profit Job Seeker http://www.nonprofitjobseeker.com/
Jobs for Change: http://jobs.change.org/?ref_id=3
Also note that working in business need not require a sacrifice of your values. Many businesses are committed to social justice issues and environmental sustainability. Take a look at these sites:
Sustainable Business: http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/
Net Impact: http://www.netimpact.org/
For a listing of current job and internship postings, see the Online Career Center. http://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/cac/internships/database.php
Examples of NGOs and other organizations, from 100 best nonprofits to work for, Find your dream job—and launch a rewarding career doing good! By Leslie Hamilton and Robert Tragert:
Clean Water Action
National Wildlife Federation
The Nature Conservancy
The Sierra Club
Trust for Public Land
Doctors Without Borders MSF
o Human Rights
Human Rights Watch
o Issue or Constituent Advocacy/Social Change
American Civil Liberties Union –ACLU
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People- NAACP
National Organization for Women- NOW
Union of Concerned Scientists- UCS
United Negro College Fund- UNCF
United Way of America
International Rescue Committee
Jane Goodall Institute
o Social Service
Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
Habitat for Humanity International
Make-a-Wish Foundation of America
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.