Would you like a job that would give you a great deal of responsibility, superb advancement opportunities, access to entrepreneurs who are truly passionate about their mission, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world? If the answer is ‘yes’, you may want to consider a job in the social enterprise sector. And you won’t be alone in your decision! In fact, HBS students in ever increasing numbers are choosing careers in social enterprise precisely because these careers give them an
unparalleled opportunity to develop and grow as managers while providing them with a sense of purpose and the opportunity to impact the lives of those people who need help the most.
What is Social Enterprise?
Social Enterprise, broadly defined, includes nonprofit organizations, public-sector/government entities, and for-profit businesses with a social mission.Though most people know what non-profits and government entities are, many ask about for-profit, social-purpose businesses. Social-purpose businesses represent an exciting spectrum of for-profit entities with a social or public-serving mission. They can include companies that define socialmission as part of their model (e.g., targeting new hires from the inner-city), donate all profits to charity, fulfill a social need (e.g. hospitals or educational institutions) or provide consulting/technical assistance to non-profits and foundations. Some of the most exciting new work in social enterprise is being led by a new group of funders, venture philanthropists, who are taking a venturecapital approach to the traditional foundation structure. The theory is that if foundations and individual philanthropists allocated funds based on performance instead of need, they would create an environment that would, in turn, produce higher performing and higher impact nonprofits.
There are a number of different options for involvement in social enterprise. A summer internship is a low-risk yet high-impact way to prepare for the post-MBA job decision and gauge your interest in working in social enterprise full-time. Summer internships in social enterprises (just as in consultancies, banks and corporations) can often lead to full-time job offers. In addition, many of the skills are transferable if you decide you would prefer to recruit for a for-profit organization
full-time in your second year. There are two great options available to HBS students:
HBS/McKinsey Community Enterprise Fellowship Program and HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program
The HBS/McKinsey Community Enterprise Fellowship Program provides students with an opportunity to work with McKinsey consultants to structure and perform a 12-week consulting engagement for a non-profit organization in the Boston area. The skills gained through the initial training (delivered by McKinsey) and during this engagement also transfer well to a variety of corporate careers.
Students wishing to work directly for a nonprofit can participate in the HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program. Since compensation can often be a concern for students interested in summer internships with social enterprises, the HBS summer fellow program provides matching funds (up to $600 per week) to students whose sponsors have limited funds to pay salaries. A full-time position can either be taken immediately out of business school or farther down the road (after working in the corporate sector). Students often cite financial considerations as a major obstacle to entering a social enterprise right out of school. While the salary will certainly be lower than professional service firms, many social enterprise organizations offer packages comparable to corporate industry positions. In addition, many students who decide to pursue a career in social enterprise qualify for need-based loan forgiveness programs. As a result, the choice of a social-enterprise career is becoming less constrained by financial considerations.
How to get a job?
The social enterprise recruiting model is similar to that of the high-tech companies that you may be looking at-it is not the traditional on-campus search. While social enterprises have varying degrees of experience with MBAs, it is often difficult for them to predict open positions; therefore they will interview later in the recruiting season. Through efforts of the Initiative on Social Enterprise and the HBS Career Services, more and more social enterprise organizations are included in the traditional career search process. However, it is likely that you may have to do a networked search as well. A couple of words of advice on how to best do the search:
Do some soul-searching. Figure out what interests you are passionate about, what functions you enjoy, what organizational characteristics appeal to you.
Get a sense of what opportunities are out there. Go to social sector presentations, do course projects focused on social enterprises, and talk to as many people as you can.
Work together with fellow classmates to pool job search resources. The Social Enterprise Club can be an excellent venue for this.
Create a hit list of organizations in which you are interested, and pursue through informational interviews, cover letters/resumes, and all venues of contact you would use for networked for-profit job search.
For more information on a general social enterprise job search, you can check out Careers in the Nonprofit Sector, an HBS Publication by Stephanie Lowell (HBS ’99), or get involved in the Social Enterprise Club. For more information on summer internships (including HBS Summer Fellowship and HBS/McKinsey Community Enterprise Fellowship opportunities), as well as full-time positions (including loan forgiveness) please contact Margot Dushin at the Initiative on Social Enterprise, firstname.lastname@example.org.