Doing Well by Doing Good
By Marty Nemko
I believe that nearly all work is good work, but many people want to do something that clearly improves the world: helps hurricane victims, the sick, the environment, etc. Yet we don’t want to take a vow of poverty.
Here are some thoughts on how to do well by doing good.
First, realize you can do well without high income. Contentment comes primarily from doing honorable work, being paid fairly, good relationships, and having something to look forward to. Most wealthy people know that beyond a fairly modest income, additional money yields little additional happiness. Living in fancy digs won’t make you much happier than in adequate ones. Nor can you shop your way into happiness. So, the lower salaries typically offered in do-good careers shouldn’t significant impede your happiness.
Salaries tend to be highest in large companies, but the media leads us to believe corporations are pretty darn evil. For example, after watching the movie, The Constant Gardner, it’s easy to come away believing drug companies would rather kill you than lose any profits. But if drug companies didn’t exist, many, many more people would die. Too, I doubt that the world would be better off without Toyota, a company that makes incredibly reliable cars, including the very green yet no-compromise Prius. I believe you could do far worse than to work for such a company. For short profiles of 400 socially responsible large companies, go to www.domini.com, click on Domini Funds and then on Domini Social 400 Index.
You can find smaller do-good companies in directories such as The National Green Pages, free and searchable online at www.coopamerica.org. Fast Company, Inc., and In Business magazines routinely profile socially responsible companies. Www.sustainablebusiness.com. is a treasure trove of environmentally-oriented firms. Don’t overlook its business connections tab.
To learn the inside scoop on local firms and make networking connections, consider attending a meeting of a local socially-responsible small business network. Philadelphia and Seattle have two of the best, but you can find two dozen more on www.livingeconomies.org. If one doesn’t exist in your area, Melissa Everett, author of Making a Living While Making a Difference and Executive Director of Sustainable Hudson Valley (sustainhv.org) says, “Why not create one? There is no better way to support your career, while doing good.”
Some companies form specifically to correct a social ill. These are often called social ventures. For example, such a firm might be created to distribute donated eyeglasses to residents of developing nations. For more examples and job leads, see the Social Venture Network at www.svn.org.
Many people eschew nonprofits because they believe they’re inefficiently run. That is only sometimes true. You can get an indicator of the fiscal discipline of 4,600 non-profits at www.charitynavigator.org.
Other people eschew government jobs because they believe that government doesn’t attract the best and brightest. Melissa Everett says, “Some of the brightest people I’ve ever met work in government—by choice.” That comports with my own experience. Many people, including my daughter, who was a graduate of Yale Law School, believes she can make the biggest difference, while still making a good income with excellent job security, by working for the government. To learn about openly advertised federal job openings, go to www.usajobs.opm.gov, which lists 60 percent of the federal openings. The other 40 percent are posted on individual federal agency sites, which can be accessed from www.federaljobs.net. For jobs in your state government, go to www.statejobs.com/gov.html and click on your state. For local government jobs, see the front of your White Pages telephone directory.
Once you’ve found the name of an employer you’d like to work for, of course, see if there’s an appropriate job opening on the employer’s website.
Check out the job listings on: www.bizethics.org/sr_jobs.htm. It’s a portal to 19 job websites that specialize in socially responsible jobs.
Many good jobs are not filled via the ads. So, phone the person at your target employer most likely to be your boss and see if you can get some inside information and perhaps even an inside track on an upcoming job opening. If you’re good at thinking on your feet, you might even be able to get a job or at least a good volunteer opportunity created for you. Everett concurs. “Any time you’re relying only on public sources, you’re downstream from where you need to be. Find the closest opportunity to mix it up with real people who are doing what you value.” For more on how to land a job, see the article, “The One Week Job Search” on www.martynemko.com.
Self-employment in socially responsible endeavors is especially risky. You’ll probably want to pay higher-than-market wages, use products that are more environmentally responsible and therefore usually more expensive, and/or serve clientele with little ability to pay. If you’re not already a successful entrepreneur, you might want to start by working for someone who is.
Advice I’d Give My Child
As important as who you work for is the kind of human being you are in every interaction. If you suffuse your actions with high standards, integrity, and kindness, you are, no matter who employs you, making an important difference in the world.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2017. Usage Rights