By Michael Gutman
When I first started working in CSR, I was all passion and zero experience. That has changed quite a bit. Since then I have created and managed the CSR department of a local business, top CSR websites publish my articles and I founded a social enterprise called REACH The Future that helps businesses engage in CSR and philanthropy. So, how did I get from just having passion, to actually getting paid to engage in CSR?
I’ll share some easy steps that will help you gain experience in corporate social responsibility, build your resume and land that dream CSR job.
Here are some tips that are aimed to get you on your way.
1. Engage in responsible resource management at your current job.
This means recycling, reusing paper, printing double-sided pages, hibernating or turning off your computer while you are away. If there is a green team at your work, join it. If there isn’t, try to create one. Many organizations do not have a CSR department so it is the efforts of individuals that make a difference. Go to your boss and ask, “Would you mind if I worked on a side project that helps reduce our utility bill, conserves company resources and saves our company money?” As long as you have a good relationship with your boss, they should be ok with it.
This will give you real world experience helping to green an office that you can put on your resume.
2. Start reading about CSR news, form an opinion and start writing.
Set up Google alerts for CSR, read CSRwire and TriplePundit, follow CSR-related companies on Twitter and learn what is happening and what people are talking about within the industry. If you are reading this article, then you are in at least in the right place. Then you will be in a position to claim you keep up with CSR trends on your resume. However, the next step is to start writing about trends and your opinions about CSR. Everyone can write. Oftentimes job applications will ask you to send in a few writing samples. This will help you.
But here is the real trick. You can write articles that praise companies that incorporate CSR and leverage those articles to get quotes from CSR professionals in those companies. Not a bad way to make connections with CSR professionals and build your network.
I got my first pieces published on Examiner.com. Examiner is always looking for writers on a wide scope of subjects. Check out their website and see if there are openings in your location to write about corporate social responsibility, green business or corporate philanthropy. Or find other CSR-related websites, develop some story ideas and send it to them. They just might publish you. If you can’t get published on any of these sites, start your own blog and start posting.
3. Certify your home office as green business.
That’s right, you can get your home office recognized as a certified green business just as a large corporation would. The only difference is scale. This strategy works best if you have some consulting experience. Here is how to do it.
Get a business license from your city as a sole proprietor or consultant (If you don’t already have one). Usually less than $50. If you have the skills, develop a simple website about your consulting work. This can be easily done using WordPress. Then, locate a green certification program, show them your business and start greening your home office.
There are many third party programs out there that offer these programs and require businesses to adopt green measures into their business practices. These measures are the same measures that a large organization would adopt in their CSR program. Once you are certified, you can put that on your resume. If you live in California, you can take advantage of the CA Green Business Program or if you are in the U.S. you can work with Green America.
4. Join monthly meet-up group about CSR, or create one.
Networking is the best way to meet others in the space and learn about current trends. Plus, you can learn what people are actually doing in the field of CSR and how they entered the space in the first place. If you are looking to join a CSR meet-up group in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are in luck. I started one. It is called Leaders In CSR. If you are in another location, check out Meetup.com and look for one. If nothing exists, start your own.
5. Join online CSR groups on social media platforms.
This is also a great way to figure out who the thought leaders are, what is trending in CSR and become part of the conversation. Engage those thought leaders in a conversation and if you can, try to have a phone call with them offline. This is just another great tool to build your relationships, knowledge base and awareness around your CSR interest.
If you want to break into the CSR space you must be able to talk with people about current trends, show that you have some experience and build a network of people in the space. These are just a few tactics that have worked well for me, but I sure there are others.
I encourage you to try some of these things out and report back on what has worked and what flopped. Also, if you have any other thoughts or suggestions on how to break into the CSR space please comment below. Hope this helps and good luck!
Michael Gutman is Founder of REACH The Future.