How to Continue Making a Difference as You Make a Living

Advice for new grads looking to be socially responsible.

Congratulations on finishing up your many years of education. As you get ready to start down a career path, there are so many opportunities and options ahead of you.

You’re part of a generation that has been repeatedly labeled. Not all of them flattering, or accurate, but there’s one that stands out to me: you’re a generation that cares deeply about improving the world. In fact, over 90% of millennials said that they feel more positively about a company after learning about its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, and 62% said they would even be willing to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. If that sounds like you, I would encourage you to make corporate social responsibility a key consideration as you search for your perfect job after graduation.

Here are a few ideas for figuring out the right company to work for and becoming a change-maker once you’re there.

Find the Right Job

One way to evaluate whether a company might be a good fit for you is to examine its approach to CSR. Ask yourself the following:

1. What are the company’s values, and do they align with my own?

2. What is the company doing to ensure it’s making a positive impact on its community? On the world?

3. What are its key initiatives? The causes it supports?

4. How does it encourage or present opportunities for employees to get involved?

For starters, check out the company’s website, blog, and articles written by its employees to learn about its CSR efforts and gauge its level of dedication and employee involvement. If you’re interested in the company, you can try to connect with these people for more information. For example, I often author posts about social programs that I’ve been a part of or that I admire within my community. I love when candidates reach out to me to discuss these topics because it shows passion and curiosity.

External analysis of a company’s CSR efforts are also available online. Fortune, Fast Company and Forbes often share research, lists and other resources featuring companies that are making a positive impact. You might even be inspired by the initiatives of companies you haven’t heard of before.

Once you’re granted an interview, remember that you aren’t just trying to sell yourself – the company needs to convince you why you should want to work there too. Make your interests in creating social good known, and the right people will take notice.

Be the Change

Now that you’ve landed a job, it’s time to get involved. A great first step is to connect with the head of CSR or your colleagues who lead social impact initiatives. This will not only help kickstart your involvement, but you’ll likely also make some great friends at work.

But what if your new company doesn’t support the causes you’re passionate about? Or maybe it doesn’t focus on CSR at all yet?

In this case, you have the opportunity to become the change-maker. From my experience, it’s very possible to help build your passion points into your company’s culture.

At Zillow, our tagline is “Find your way home,” and with homes in the US being less affordable than ever to buy or rent, I realized we had an opportunity to fill a big need – to help those struggling for a place to call home. As a result, Zillow’s Community Pillar program was born with the vision of helping everyone find a home. It’s a big undertaking, but the goal is to connect people with rental barriers – such as poor credit, employment or housing history – with property managers and landlords that can help them find housing.

If you’re driven to create social change from within your company like I was, share that vision and passion with your superiors and peers. Get involved where you can, and if the initiative doesn’t exist, try to create it! Just because your company doesn’t currently support the causes you’re passionate about doesn’t mean that it won’t. Remind them that CSR practices have high potential to deliver financial ROI, as well as other business benefits. From a strategic standpoint, it can boost how shareholders view performance, grow and protect a brand, enhance competitive positioning and increase employee loyalty and engagement.

You don’t have to choose between being successful and making a difference – and neither does the company you work for. As you enter the workforce, look for a company that is doing well by doing good. And if your job isn’t already doing that, I encourage you to leverage your passions to demonstrate how you can help. As long as you have a grounded understanding of a company’s work and see potential for its growth in CSR, you have what it takes to move things forward.

As you take your next big steps in life, stay true to your desire to make the world better. You won’t regret it.

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