Last week, I guest-lectured on social entrepreneurship to a group of master’s students at a well-known university in the Washington, DC area. Towards the end, the conversation veered towards the idea behind what we’re doinghere at The Amani Institute. When I described a disillusionment amongst employers with certain types of higher education, a few students reacted with annoyance and pique.
“But we do have valuable skills”, they exclaimed. “Don’t you think that its up to employers to figure out how to deploy us? They need to meet us half-way. Isn’t part of the problem that organizations aren’t being creative enough?”
To which I have a simple answer. If you think you’re worth hiring, prove it. Show that you can add value that the organization needs. I often tell the story of the summer intern at Ashoka who led other summer interns in the production of this video, which is now used all around the world by Ashoka staff when presenting the organization. And, surprise, surprise, Ashoka hired this intern as soon as she graduated! Because she had proved she could do something the organization needed.
Marketing guru Seth Godin laid out another way of thinking about this in his blog post, ‘How to get a job with a small company‘. For the words “small company”, substitute “NGO” or “social sector organization” and everything else applies. Everything else.
And he ends with a gem:
”Once you demonstrate that you contribute far more than you cost, now it’s merely a matter of figuring out a payment schedule.”
As more people start social businesses (like us), this way of thinking, this way of proving that you’re worth it, is going to become a key to job-getting success. Sadly, most universities’ Career Services centers are still focused on nabbing jobs in the “large companies economy”. This needs to change. But students like the ones I spoke with last week can’t wait around for that change to happen. They need jobs now, and that’s why they need to start showing they are worth it.
And then companies and organizations will not only meet them half-way, but will in fact begin to pursue them.