FEATURE PHOTO BY SAMUEL ZELLER ON UNSPLASH
Corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, sustainability, corporate accountability—whatever you want to call it, corporate responsibility is a trending topic in the communications industry. New studies are constantly being published, indicating a necessity for organizations to focus on their social functions. Investors, employees and customers are demanding that companies are building structural foundations on social good practices.
Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, a multinational investment management corporation says, “A company’s ability to manage environmental, social and governance matters demonstrates the leadership…that is so essential to sustainable growth.”
In addition, CSR isn’t only helpful for the growth of the company, but can spur major growth in the personal development of professionals working in the field. Imagine going into work each day with an attitude that your efforts could change the world. Sean Rico Fisher, Associate Manager of Corporate Responsibility for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation had that very desire as a young professional. After graduating with his undergraduate, one of his first positions was in CSR. While this is uncommon, it gives Sean a unique perspective about how students could potentially do the same. In an interview with Fisher, he shared insights into how young professionals could prepare themselves to get in this niche industry.
Expand your knowledge and understand what companies are doing
Most professionals and educators will advise students to stay current on industry news and upcoming trends. There are numerous organizations that regularly publish research about CSR and a quick internet search will give you pages of resources available. Fisher suggested students should read CSR reports of different companies and CSR job descriptions. He says, “By looking at an organization’s CSR report, you will become familiar with how companies talk about CSR and what it means to them.”
With regards to job descriptions, he gave this unique insight, “In order for a job description to be posted, it means that a lot of internal conversations had to have happened in order for that job to be created. Those bullet points are telling you what the company is trying to do. Job functions are there to solve a problem.”
Get involved with local networks of CSR practitioners
Another critical step is to build relationships with like-minded people, including finding professionals that work in the industry. “Throughout the country there are informal networks of CSR practitioners,” says Fisher, “they get together and talk about CSR—challenges they face and how each organization wants to help the community as a whole.” Students might also search for CSR professionals and conduct informational interviews and attempt to build relationships with people working in the industry.
Develop technical skills and become an expert in your field
The final piece of advice that Fisher gave was to focus on developing technical skills and master what you’re studying. For many students that includes skills like writing, public speaking and research. In an article on bmeaningful.com, the author states, “Companies want to know what you can do for them, and how your unique skill set will be beneficial for the company. In CSR it’s about knowing how to communicate well and turn insights and research into compelling cases in presentations, writings and conversations.”
An uncertain road map
Many companies are still trying to determine how these practices fit in their corporate structure and don’t offer traditional internships to help students and graduates gain necessary experience. Which means the exact process of getting a job in CSR is different for everyone. There is no step-by-step solution, but as the industry continues to expand, more opportunities will become present. As students increase knowledge through their education, build social networks and develop skills, they can position themselves to start a career in CSR.