Photo: Richmond Social Enterprise

Photo: Richmond Social Enterprise

Getting into social business can be hard. It’s there’s no linear career path; in fact, there’s no “standard” career path at all.  If you’re considering business school, most rankings are aimed at investment bankers, not social entrepreneurs.  This page is a jumping off point for newcomers to the sector.  If you’re confused by the terminology of social business (and who isn’t?) also check out our Jargon Decoder.

Three tips for starting a career in inclusive business an social enterprise:

Earlier this year I returned to my alma mater the London School of Economics and Political Science to talk about starting a career in business and international development. It was encouraging to see the surge of interest in inclusive business amongst current students (possibly reflecting millennials’ desire to work in fields which contribute to social change), but it was also apparent that when people say they want to work business and development, it’s not always clear what that means in practice.  Below I’ve listed three tips for positioning yourself for a career in inclusive business.

#1 Understand the field

One the frustrating aspects of inclusive business is that there is no linear path to entry. This is understandable, as the field continues to redefine itself on a regular basis.  To determine what might be the best fit for you, I recommend thinking about your interest on three different levels: theme, function, and sector.

Theme:   First, what specifically about business and development interests you?   A rapidly growing set of sub-specialties characterizes inclusive business. These include but are by no means limited to: business and finance, business and extractives, business and agriculture, business and international trade, business and gender…I could go on. As the field develops, it seems reasonable to assume that there will be a further recognition of, and division between, specialties.

Function: Second, what do you actually want to do with your days?  As a Private Sector Advisor, I design and evaluate private sector development programming with institutional and corporate partners, which is an elaborate way of saying that I spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing logframes.  However, I sit alongside colleagues responsible for raising funds or managing relationships with partners. We all work on the same team, but our day-to-day focus is very different.  You have to ask yourself whether your talents lend themselves to conducting research, advocating for policy change, conducting social audits, or managing a social enterprise.

Sector: Finally, what type of organization do you want to work for?   Life at an NGO is very different from at a company, consultancy, think tank, or government agency.   Here, the only way to know which suits you best is to go out and try them. Fortunately, the field values cross-sector experience.

#2 Drop the jargon

This caption is a bit misleading- you have to be familiar with all the different jargon, but avoid using it too much.  Inclusive business, social enterprise, inclusive business – it’s important to know the difference, but the terms are used so interchangeably that it is more important to look at the substance of your work and the impact you are achieving than what exactly it is called.

The truth is, to succeed in inclusive business you need to know not only the jargon but also at least the basics of many different fields; economics, business, human rights, development, marketing- all come up on a routine basic.  This is definitely a career for people with a multi-disciplinary mind-set, who enjoy breaking down borders more than putting them up.

#3 Offer more than good intentions

Inclusive business and social enterprise are taking off-one could even say they are overhyped. That makes it all the more important to come to the field with more than good intentions.  Know how to run a business, or set up global sourcing.

At this point, the argument that inclusive business should be on the agenda has been very well made. The question is not whether companies should do something to benefit society, but how they should do it. Have something to offer to make it happen.

More questions?

Have more questions about starting a career in inclusive business? Post in the comments below or tweet us at @Social_MBA. 

Alexa Roscoe is the Founder of The Social MBA and a Forte Fellow in the Oxford Said Business School class of 2015. Follow her on Twitter @AlexaRoscoe.







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