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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Unexpected Places to Find a Fulfilling Career (Hint: It's At Almost Every Company)

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You've got the heart of a volunteer—but when it comes to your professional path, you're not totally sold on a career at an NGO.

We get it. Balancing community work with the need to pay rent on time is tough. Though nonprofit work can be wildly rewarding in many ways, today there are other options for people looking to make a social impact in their 9 to 5.

Many of these roles are within household names (see: jobs like Pinterest's new Head of Diversity, and Netflix's philosophy on company culture). These nods to inclusion, diversity, and—warning: high volume of buzzwords ahead—social impact are evidence that companies are dedicating dollars to making the workplace, and dare-we-say the world, a better place to live.

Margaret George, a Corporate Responsibility Manager at Caesars Entertainment, is a prime example of how to turn a passion for positive impact into a viable career. She's got one foot in the corporate world and another in the trenches of social good. If that sounds like the kind of career you're looking for, we've got a few tips on how to get started and what to expect.

Learn the Lay of the Land

The term "corporate responsibility" is a relatively new addition to job titles. In the dark ages (about 15 years ago), only about 10% of Fortune 500 companies reported on their environmental impact or social progress. Today, it's common practice.

So what's the reason for the trend? To attract top talent, companies are looking beyond their own bottom lines to a more noble set of metrics, including sustainability and community impact. What's more, they want to make their mark on the world in meaningful ways, especially with "fulfillment" becoming an important item on millennials' Dream Job Checklist. And, companies are starting to realize that they're just one social injustice away from a Twitter firestorm and the resulting consumer backlash.

Roles like Margaret's are on the rise—but they're also highly competitive. The first step to landing a role in corporate social responsibility is to learn the terminology. Job titles may include any combination of ambiguous terms like community outreach, corporate citizenship, employee volunteerism... the list goes on. The bottom line: It's about way more than just philanthropy.

CSR roles will likely include a smattering of different responsibilities that fall under the umbrella of making a positive impact. Teams tend to be on the small side (Caesars' entire CSR department consists of just seven people), which means you need to be comfortable working on a close-knit team, wearing a lot of different hats, and taking on leadership responsibilities. Hint: If you have any specific anecdotes about experiences with these things, they better be in your cover letter.

Get Used to All of the Hats You'll be Wearing

To get the inside scoop on what a Corporate Responsibility Manager might do in the day-to-day, Margaret detailed her many responsibilities across the 36 casino initiatives in the U.S.

A few of her duties include overseeing annual contests that benefit seniors, working with notable organizations like Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society, and helping manage environmental efforts. She works closely with internal teams like CodeGreen, which focuses on sustainability, and HEROs, the company's employee volunteer arm. In addition to her in-office duties, George sits on several environmental and sustainability-focused boards, such as the board for Green Chips and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

If it sounds like a juggling act, you heard correctly.

But it's definitely a fulfilling one. For example, last year Margaret led a contest that leveraged a partnership with Clean the World to provide hygiene kits to families in need. Throughout the initiative, housekeepers at Caesars properties collected soap and hygiene products left behind by guests. The products were then sanitized and delivered to families affected by domestic abuse.

The idea for the Clean the World project actually originated far from Margaret's office—housekeeping employees who lamented discarding perfectly usable hygiene products every day came up with the concept, and she ultimately headed up the contest's execution.

“The incredible accomplishments we've made as a company would not exist without programs driven by team members who go above and beyond," she says. “I love that I get to lift these enthusiastic colleagues up."

Know Where to Get Started

The good news about the relative newness of this career path is that there's no prescribed way to land one of these jobs—and no "ideal" background.

Candidates seeking a job in corporate responsibility may come from any number of educational or career backgrounds—anything from HR to journalism to sociology. This also means that there's a wide range of prior work experience or even personal hobbies to draw from while crafting your elevator pitch. Those three weeks you spent working on a sustainable farm abroad? That counts. Your college internship with a nonprofit? A great talking point for a first-round interview. Plus, any volunteering or pro bono impact work you did outside of your current role is seen as a major bonus.

Margaret's background is in broadcast journalism, which is where her affinity for social responsibility took root. Her years spent as a journalist, particularly her focus on media and consumer behavior, she says, helped prepare her for her current role.

Knowing how to tell stories is key in CSR—which is why a background like Margaret's or a prior stint at a communications job may work to your advantage. Technical prowess, such as data analytics experience, is also a plus: CSR roles are often more analytics-driven than many people think. Part of Margaret's responsibilities include monitoring monthly behavioral change programs and sending properties weekly "responsibility scores."

"I think of myself as an information/activation hub for our property leaders to use as a resource" she explains.

If you're seeking a career change or a foot in the door in a CSR role, try looking in unexpected places—such as big-name companies you've always admired, but that don't necessarily scream "social impact" at first glance. You may be surprised by the types of organizations that offer jobs in this sector: After all, volunteerism is probably not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Caesars' grand casinos—and yet, it's an integral part of the company's culture.

The best part of Margaret's job? It turns out that long list of responsibilities is more than just words on a page: When she's able to see the fruits of her labor manifest IRL, she gets a glimpse of the real, tangible impact that drew her to the job in the first place.

"I'm able to expand beyond my job description," she says. "I get to share in experiences that will be remembered for a lifetime."