This is the final excerpt from a series ofinterviews I conducted with four MBA candidates (see footnote for biographicalinformation) who graduated—or expect to soon—with a focus on corporate socialresponsibility (CSR). In this portion, the graduates discuss their internshipexperiences and the dilemmas of conducting a job search in corporateresponsibility.
Finding anInternship in CSR
For Ashley Jablow, the traditional MBA summer internship search was only the beginning of a long road ahead. "I had alot of trouble looking for an internship because I wanted to get a CSRinternship, but didn't have any relevant experience. I didn't get any biteswhen I was applying for jobs that said 'CSR intern' in the title," shesaid. Eventually, she settled for building on her fund raising experience byworking in corporate communications with a large consumer goods agriculturalco-op that considers community a part of its DNA.
Geetanjali Singh, on the other hand, wanted to do an internship with a nonprofit to complement her corporate experience. Herinternship search also had a unique catch: She wanted to do an internship inIndia. And it worked out: she spent her summer in India interning with theUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For Singh, working for anorganization with UNDP's global scale resulted in some key realizations:
"What it taught me first and foremost was how unsuitable I was for the nonprofitworld. Even though UNDP is a global nonprofit, the mentality, the attitude andthe way work is conducted is very different from a corporate setting. This waswhen I decided to connect my passion for working with grassroots andinclination toward a corporate setting by focusing on CSR."
Finding a job in CSR
And finally, we got to the elephant in the room:where are the jobs? Whit Tice is the only one of the four who is currentlyemployed. But even that development is recent: at the time of our chat earlier thisyear, Tice was still looking for work, and had been in the job market for overa year, using freelance consulting work to tide him over. At the time, heconfessed that if it came to a choice between need and ideal, then employmentwas far more important than finding the right fit. He also admitted that manyof the advertised job titles smacked of little more than green washing.
"While there's the challenge of 'I need tofind a job' there's also the added challenge of finding the perfect fit of ajob. Add the current economic climate and you get companies that have pushedtheir CSR and sustainability efforts much lower on the priority list, withalmost no job openings in the field. Thus, on several different fronts, thatideal job is hard to find." Tice now works with Logic 20/20 as a change management senior consultant (see footnote).
For Jablow and Singh, graduation merriment is stillin the air and their job searches are in their infancy. Singh also realizesthat she is stuck amidst a key disconnect in the job market: While somecompanies are reactively ramping up their CSR initiatives, they are tending tohire externally only for senior level positions. The mid- and entry-levelpositions in these new CSR-focused teams, however, are being filled internally.This has created a framework that is restricting business school graduates whomay be equipped with a deeper understanding of the issues than the internalemployee base, but lack the "industry experience" to apply for thefew available senior-level jobs.
"If you look on Simply Hired, Indeed or anyother job site, anybody who is recruiting for CSR is only just catching on tothe trend. So they’re recruiting directors and vice presidents and promotingothers from corporate communications, public relations, and HR internally intoCSR," observed Singh. For recent graduates like she and Jablow, thisinstantly reduces the value of their qualifications as a bridge to newindustries.
As they're both finding out, getting hired into adifferent role that builds on their traditional experience might be the onlyway forward, as long as the company has a strong focus on corporateresponsibility. For Jablow, who is very active in social media and regularlyblogs on CSR on The Changebase, this is déjà vu. "Idid numerous informational interviews over the last couple of years with CSRleaders at different companies, and their advice was always to go getfunctional business experience. Go work in marketing, finance, or strategy, andfrom there, after two or five or 10 years, create internal change and move intoa CSR role internally within the company," she said. Today, she continuesto run into the same advice.
Larry Furman, who is set to graduate as a foundingmember of Marlboro's MBA program this December, has adifferent mindset about thejob market's offerings in CSR. "I don't knowif it's tougher to find a job in corporate responsibility—it might be easier—Iexpect the companies that are built around CSR are healthier than theircompetitors and have more opportunities. Besides, I only want to work at aplace in which I will thrive, so even if it’s tougher, why find a job only towork toward finding another one?"
Advice forfellow graduates and job seekers?
If there is one thing all of the intervieweesagreed on, it's the importance of networking and personal branding. Jablow andTice have maintained regularly updated blogs for more than a year, where theydiscuss their professional and educational experiences, alwaysconnecting change management with their respective audiences and focus.
As Tice put it, "You may not be able to get asustainable consultant job, but it may become a facet of your job once you dosome other great work. It’s just like any strategy: don’t give up and find away to be sustainable yourself. Pull upon all of your resources andcapabilities to make it happen and it will be that much more likely to happen.It may not be the right time—this year, this month—but it will be at some pointin time."
Job Hunting in CSR, Part 2: Connecting CorporateResponsibility with Career Objectives
Job Hunting in CSR, Part 1: Will the Recession Serve as aTipping Point for Corporate Responsibility?
Job Hunting in CSR: What's Next for These MBA Graduates?
And finally the blog that motivated this series: Does CSR Matter in Your Job Search?***************************************************
Ashley Jablow graduated fromBoston University's School of Management with anMBA in CSR Marketing, Communications and Strategy in May, 2010. She is activelyengaged in discussing CSR through Twitterand her blog, The Changebase. Currently, she islooking for a fulltime job in corporate responsibility in the San Franciscoarea.
Geetanjali 'Geet' Singhgraduated in June 2010 from University of California-Irvine's Paul Merage School of Business with a concentrationon CSR, general management and strategy. Formerly from Mumbai, India, Singh iscurrently looking for a corporate responsibility job in Orange County,California and hopes that Silicon Valley will wake up to the business value inCSR. Connect with her on Twitter.
Whit Tice graduated with an MBAfrom Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management in2008 and decided to back it up with a Master's in Positive OrganizationalDevelopment and Change, also from Case Western, which he completed in 2009.Whit is currently with consulting firm Logic 20/20, where he is a ChangeManagement Senior Consultant, and continues to discuss systems thinking andorganizational development through his blog, The Organizational Strategist.
Larry Furman is a SustainabilityConsultant and currently pursuing an MBA in managing for sustainability fromMarlboro College. He is a member of the program'sfirst graduating class and is looking forward to combining his experience in ITwith his passion for sustainable energy and green solutions.
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