For generations, bright graduates have been interested in what they can do to improve society and address inequality.
But the options for socially-conscious graduates in 2014 might seem limited. While Teach First and Frontline offer a recognised entry route into education and social work respectively, your interests might lie elsewhere; months and months of think tank internships are unlikely to teach you much more than stapling skills; and the prospect of becoming an admin assistant in a charity – if you beat 100s of other applicants to the job that is – probably doesn’t fill you with excitement.
But recently, some trailblazing grads have been discovering Social Enterprises, businesses with a social mission. For those who are left cold by corporates, social enterprise is business with a heart. For those who have doubts about the effectiveness of traditional non-profit activity, social enterprise is charity with a brain.
And it’s booming. There are now 70,000 social enterprises in the UK – from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, that employs kids from tough backgrounds, to Fair Finance, that tailor the loans they offer to the needs of poor people. But the field is still new and that means that graduate pathways into the sector are not yet formalised.
I’ve been working in the social enterprise field for five years and now run Year Here, a postgraduate social innovation programme. Without any exaggeration, I have read 1000s of graduate CVs. I know how hard it is to get a foot in the door. I also know that social enterprise can achieve nothing without great people. Great people like you.
So, I want to offer you one bitter pill to swallow and six strategies to kick off your social enterprise career.
Sadly, the skills and knowledge that you acquired at university are unlikely to be relevant to the social enterprise that needs to facilitate a training session with some rowdy school children or prepare a killer pitch for tomorrow. Grades are only relevant to employers to the extent that they confirm your intellect and application – that’s all.
But you can’t wallow your way out of the misery of graduate unemployment. The race is on to differentiate yourself.
The good news is that while it might conjure up images of backstabbing your way to the top, ‘differentiating yourself’ can be an enriching, collaborative and fun experience.
My six strategies are: