My undergraduate internship was, to put it mildly, an eye-opener. For most business students, this coveted financial internship is an opportunity to get their foot in the door at Fortune 500 companies like Goldman Sachs or PricewaterhouseCoopers.
For me, it was a preview into a life I discovered I didn’t want.
What you are about to read might be my story, but it's not at all unique to me. In fact, my career path is emblematic of a growing pool of social entrepreneurs who want to use their education and experience to improve the lives of those who don’t have the opportunity to do so themselves.
My hope is that by sharing my career path from profit to impact will, in a small way, contribute to others wanting to follow a similar route.
Northeastern University & a 'Wall Street' Internship
Northeastern's (NEU) co-op program is an internship-style system that places students in six-month, full-time, paid positions with organizations internationally.
I landed a co-op at an established investment management firm in Boston’s financial district. It was an immensely valuable experience: I loved everyone I worked with, was provided with ample opportunities to gain responsibility and advance my role, and experienced what many business professionals constantly complain of: The sense that I was living a "9-to-5," life "working for the man" and "trying to climb the corporate ladder" all within a six-month co-op.
I realized that I didn't want the life of a disposable employee chasing dollars that I once glamorized.
I wanted something more to live for than the next paycheck or the next office party.
The Social Enterprise Institute: Solving Social Issues with Financial Skills
I then met Professor Dennis Shaughnessy, a private sector entrepreneur and award-winning professor at NEU who introduced me to social enterprise. Under his guidance, I quickly became engaged in NEU’s Social Enterprise Institute (SEI), an innovative institute that provides students with a complete three-piece toolkit to become leaders of this new revolution:
- Courses in how to tackle global social issues through business;
- Experience in developing countries to work with established social enterprises and struggling members of 'the bottom billion'; and
- Assistance getting co-ops with high-impact social enterprises.
Rather than returning to the financial district, I spent the following summer with the SEI and other like-minded students assessing the impact of microcredit loans on Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic and helping micro-entrepreneurs from the townships of South Africa build businesses.
Working one on one with these communities (instead of just seeing them in pictures on a charity website), had a dramatic affect on how I view the world and the role I could play in it.
I realized that this is where my business school skills would be most effective.
Today: A Career that is Rewarding Financially & Personally
I finished my undergraduate degree by continuing to study and travel with the SEI on initiatives that challenged me to excel in a business environment and satisfied my passion for doing something meaningful with my life and skills.
After graduating in 2010, I decided to continue on the path, despite a dithering economy and not a lot of options in the marketplace.
Today, I work as a marketing manager for a socially responsible apparel company called MoJo, which fits perfectly with my aspirations: By employing low-income, opportunity-deprived single moms nationwide, MoJo is effectively contributing to end poverty for children in the U.S.
It's wonderfully stimulating to work for a company whose business model encompasses a purpose beyond the best interests of its shareholders. I know I am making an impact.
Spotlighting Social Entrepreneurship
As I said in the beginning, when Vault invited me to discuss my career path, I wanted to do more than just share my story. I wanted to let people know that I’m not as unique as I was made out to be in a recent story on MSNBC.
I am but one of many. Now whether you call this a generationally shifting mindset across campuses, an acknowledgment that a global economy can no longer continue to function in siloed development, or a call to action to the corporate world, it's up to you.
--By Myles Lutheran
Myles Lutheran is the Marketing Manager for Moms and Jobs, Inc., and has worked with social enterprises and microfinance institutions internationally, including the United States, Dominican Republic, South Africa, and the Philippines. Lutheran graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, New Venture Management, and Social Enterprise in 2010. He can be reached at LinkedIn.