By Valerie Young
Let’s face it, unless you’re independently wealthy, you can’t just up and quit your day job and be running your own profitable small business immediately. That’s why I love Suzanne Evan’s suggestion that you think of your job not as “job” but as your “business loan.”
Clearly it’s not always possible to get a really interesting “business loan” or that one that makes a difference in the world, especially in this economy. BUT that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
The way I see it you have two options:
Option 1: Find an interesting job to serve as your “business loan” while you grow your business on the side.
Option 2: Start a small side business to make up for having a less than interesting job.
Either way the first question of course is HOW do you want to make a difference?
What Does Making a Difference Mean to You?
I started out my professional career running diversity workshops because I had – and still have – a passion for social justice. I had one corporate gig but mostly I conducted training sessions on living and working with diverse populations on campus for residential assistants (RAs) at universities.
Because I was leading large workshops of 60-200 people, I got to touch a lot of lives. After 25 years, I occasionally run into a 40-something year old former RA who remembers my presentation, “What Glasses Are You Wearing?” and says it forever changed how they view the world. What a feeling!
If you share a passion for fostering a more diverse workplace, you don’t have to earn a doctoral degree as I did.
Cornell University’s Diversity and Inclusion Management and Certification Program is offered both at the New York campus as well as via a satellite program in Boston (the Boston one begins in February). Both programs include classes like strategic diversity recruiting and running effective diversity councils in organizations.
Keep Your Day Job and Make a Difference on the Side
I put myself through college the way a lot of young people do, by waitressing. One wild summer my sister Susan and I worked at the then famous Thompson’s Clam Bar in Harwichport, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. (One of these days I’ll scan a photo of us in our red sailor dresses!)
What does this have to do with making a difference?
Thompson’s has long been closed. However, in a very creative move, a company called Cape Cast is taking film footage of venues like this and selling them as a way to raise money. In this case, the funds will go to the local historical society.
That got me thinking about how anyone who loves film editing could start a small side business pulling together old footage for fundraising purposes for any kind of worthy cause.
Find a beloved former location – preferably one that attracted thousands of people – then start digging around for people who are still around who may have old photos or home movies.
The possibilities here are endless. And, best of all, you don’t have to quit your j-o-b to start this kind of profit center.
Join a Non-Profit
Again, if you must have a boss and co-workers, in my experience the kind of people who are drawn to work in non-profit organizations are different than those in the corporate world. And depending on the organization, of course, the hours are more reasonable as well.
You could start by doing a search in your own area of non-profits whose work speaks to you – like an animal shelter or organizations that serve people with cancer.
Or you can search online. Idealist.org has a searchable database of nearly 58,000 non-profits in 165 countries where you’ll find job postings, volunteer opportunities, events, etc. Plus, there’s a directory to promote your products or consulting services to non-profits, a library of inspiring articles, and lots more. And the site can be accessed in English, Spanish, and French. OpportunityKnocks.org is another site specializing in job postings in the non-profit world. Two listings that caught my eye were: Program Associate at the Christiansen Fund
This organization funds the arts, environmental conservation, and education locally (Bay area) and internationally. Since 2002, they’ve focused mostly on “biocultural diversity” described as the intersection of people, landscape, culture and ecology.
Okay this one requires an advanced degree (or past experience), still I love knowing these small non-profits are out there doing important work. And you never know – they may have other openings down the road! To open doors faster, volunteer to take on a project or otherwise help out.
The other cool opening was for a Screenwriting Assistant at UCLA. It’s not focused on making a difference per se. However, it certainly could be lead in that direction if you go on to make socially conscious films. Either way, it’s a great way to break into screenwriting and get great benefits at the same time!
Start Your Own Non-Profit Just because you can’t save the world doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. And starting a non-profit organization doesn’t happen overnight. On the other hand, it’s not the impossible dream you might think it is!
Here again Idealist.org has lots of information on how to start a non-profit. And the Foundation Center offers lots of free workshops on grant writing and a monthly subscription service listing grants available to artists, researchers, and others.
One non-profit on my mind a lot these days is that co-founded by my friend Felice Yeskel. I met Felice when she was admitted to the Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts shortly before I graduated.
Felice grew up working class and wanted to find a way to use her degree to facilitate cross-class dialogue. So she joined forces with another UMass alumn named Jenny Ladd. As an heir to the Standard Oil fortune, Jenny grew up on the complete other end of the class spectrum. Together, this unlikely pair founded a training company called Class Action.
One of my favorite stories is of Felice conducting a workshop at some elite prep school like Andover Academy. When a few of the faculty balked at the need to talk about social class at all, Felice replied, “Oh I’m sorry, I thought since you are training future leaders, you might like to learn about the people they’ll be leading.” It was a light bulb moment for these faculty members.
Sadly, Felice passed away Sunday night after a two year battle with cancer. With the impending snow storm here in the Northeast the funeral was hastily moved to Monday. Although most people, myself included, did not learn of Felice’s passing until 8:30 am. By 2:00 over 300 people had packed into the Jewish Community Center to honor her life and legacy.
There are many ways to make a difference. But it always starts with one small step. And as I always say, changing course may not always be easy – but it is worth it!
If you think it might help you advance your dream of working at what you love , I invite you to join me next weekend January 22-23 for a Virtual “Work at What You Love” Weekend Workshop.
Because the entire workshop will happen live by phone, you don’t even have to leave your home in order to come together with up to 200 others from around the world who share your dream of making a living doing what you love.
I’m seeing it as a chance where, together, you can take a giant, collective leap forward all in a single weekend. And when you see how affordable this gathering is, you’ll understand why this opportunity truly is a “no brainer.”
Learn how you can be a part of it at http://www.changingcourse.com/nobrainerretreat.htm