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How to make a difference in your career

Everyone needs meaning in their life and for many people, their career is where they choose to make a difference.

Now you may be thinking that in order to help others in your career, you need to work for a charity. And while this may be one of the most popular ways to do so, it’s certainly not the only one – which is why we’ve put together this guide to jobs that make a difference.

What does it mean to make a difference?

Quite an abstract phrase, isn’t it? There are many ways to make a difference in your career, but what it boils down to is helping to bring about a change for the better in a way that you believe is important. This is often referred to as a “social good” or “social purpose”.

two women hiking
Helping others: what does it mean to you?

Some of you will have come to this article because you want to change the world and know exactly how you're going to do it! If that's you, this isn't the post you should be reading − this one is.

A lot of us, on the other hand, have a general sense of wanting to use their career to bring about positive change, or to contribute to something greater than themselves. The problem is that this on its own, this is quite a vague aspiration.

'Making a difference in your career is about your personal beliefs and values'

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What do you believe in?

One way round this is to think about what you believe in. What you really, truly believe in.

For example, if it's the creatures we share the planet with that really matter to you, you could consider a job which helps improve animal welfare. Now, there are many ways you could do this, including as a vet, by working directly with animals in an animal sanctuary, or by raising awareness of animal rights.

Connect what you believe with what you do well

It's not always enough to have strong beliefs. Although beliefs, and a sense of what we want to achieve, often drive our interests and skills, that's not the case for all of us.

To be happy in your work, you need to do something you do well and that satisfies you in itself. Start by defining your skills and strengths, and thinking about what kind of job these might lead to. Next, think about how you might apply these in an area of work, or “industry”, where you’ll be able to make a difference.

Where can you make a difference?

The good news is, there are loads of jobs that make a difference! You can make a difference in lots of industries, so many that you probably won’t have thought about all of them. We’ve listed the main industries here, and linked to our Career Zones so you can read more about those which chime with you.

Animal welfare

animal in tree
Animal welfare jobs include carrying out research which will
help protect animals and their habitat in the future.

A career in animal welfare allows you to work directly with animals to improve their lives in a way you can see. It’s not just about being a vet – for instance, you could work as a zookeeper or a zoologist.

Charity and not-for-profit

Working for a charity is perhaps the “go-to” way to make a difference through your career. Charities work in all sorts of areas – caring for children, providing healthcare in poorer parts of the world, protecting animals, tackling women’s issues. Charities also bring art and culture into people’s lives – and even provide funding for other charities.

Like any other business, they need employees in all areas – from advertising their work and raising funds, to running their IT systems and manning their phones. There are lots of smaller charities which often rely on people getting stuck into tasks outside their main expertise.

Education and teaching

Good teaching helps young people succeed in what you’re doing now – planning their career and striving for the kind of life they want to lead. If you’re drawn to academic research, you could also think about teaching in a university.

Medicine and healthcare

Medicine and healthcare are some of the key jobs that make a difference. We rely on doctors, nurses and surgeons at the most critical times in our lives. Behind the frontline, researchers and laboratory technicians work towards new therapies and analyse samples to make sure we get the treatment we need.

Public sector and government

Politicians are rarely flavour of the month, but in reality, they use their careers to stand up for the ordinary people they represent. Also in the public sector are the civil servants, who work in the different government departments, carrying out research and making politicians’ decision a reality.

And that’s just the tip of the ice berg – roads, schools, hospitals, parks and many more services are all run by public sector employees. Without the public sector, the country would come to a standstill.

Police, security and emergency services 

police officer
Learn how to become a police officer

Like doctors and nurses, we rely on these people to keep us safe. They protect us from crime, get us to hospital when we need medical help, look after us at the beach – and even get our cats out of trees!

Science and research

Through science and research, we work towards cures for diseases, develop technology for communicating and getting around, and solve big problems like climate change.

Making a difference in your own way

Do the words “Venn diagram” ring any bells? It’s time to put together the industries you’re drawn to with the jobs you have the skills and interest for.

Think creatively. You can make a difference in almost any profession or trade – very few things exist in isolation. Just because you’re heading for a career as a programmer, doesn’t mean you’re destined to sit in a darkened room, completely cut off from the world. For example, charities need programmers to help with their IT systems and websites, just like any other company.

The feeling of making a difference is all about staying true to your own principles and beliefs. Don’t feel limited by our suggestions! Pursuing a career in art and design, for example, could bring joy a lot of joy to the people who see your work – and you could work as a designer for a charity or in the public sector.

Let us know how you would like to make a difference in your career by commenting in the box below. Your advice could give someone a sense of purpose!

Image credits

Main image via Flickr.