Pursue your interests and the right career will find you.’
Lisa Schorr (HBS ’98) has a built a rewarding career in social enterprise based on this premise. Social enterprise discovered Lisa in college, when she began volunteering for City Year, then a service program located in Boston. Having enjoyed that experience, Lisa joined City Year full-time after college where she worked in a variety of roles from hands-on local service work to big-picture planning. Her experience culminated in implementing the program’s national rollout. “I definitely had more responsibility than I would have had in a traditional job.”
What made you ultimately decide to come to HBS?
Because I was in ‘social enterprise mode’ I actually had never thought about graduate school. At that time, there wasn’t much emphasis on social enterprise in business schools. I decided to go after speaking with a friend who was in business school. I realized that I could benefit from others’ experiences and apply those lessons in the social sector.
At HBS, the Community Enterprise Fellowship Program, a joint venture with McKinsey & Company, selected Lisa to work with the Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter in Boston. With a team, Lisa developed a business plan for a self-sustaining initiative that would provide transitional work opportunities for people who are homeless. The plan was so well received that the Pine Street Inn offered Lisa a position as Director of Business Enterprise Development after business school. “I never thought that I would end up directing the program!”
Lisa worked as Director for two years and was able to satisfy the initial objective of making the program self-sustaining. The program broke even after two years, and Lisa essentially worked herself out of her position.
Have your experiences in social enterprise differed from what you had expected?
I hoped that I would be able to apply the skills learned in business school to social enterprise, and I have. I think constantly about that. Though I don’t think that all strategies employed in the for-profit world should be transferred to the non-profit world, I think that the tools learned in business school are valuable in the non-profit sector.
What advice would you give to aspiring HBS students interested in social enterprise?
Follow your passions. Get involved in things that are interesting to you. You will land in places that will help you to move forward in you career. Don’t attempt to get closer to what you’re interested in by doing things that do not interest you.
The line between the for-profit and non-profit sector is blurry. You can find a job that excites you without sacrificing what is important to you. For example, you can work in the private sector, but for a socially responsible company.
Since Pine Street, Lisa has consulted for several non-profit organizations, including STRIVE, and is currently seeking to make a longer-term investment in an organization.
Lisa is also working on developing the Social Enterprise Alumni Association. The Association aims to provide a community and network for HBS graduates interested in social enterprise.