Our World

fast-company-logo

7 Tips To Landing A Job In Impact Investing

Editor’s note: this post originally appeared on Fast Co.Exist. Emma Vaughn was a Summer Associate for our Communications department in New York.

For a lot of recent MBA graduates, the dream is to work doing business that gives back. But those positions can be hard to come by. Here are some tips to set yourself apart from the pack.

It is no secret that MBA grads by the droves are seeking socially-conscious job opportunities. The community of socially-minded business school students continues to grow: Attendance at the Net Impact confer was up to 2,600 MBA students and professionals.

As an MBA student who was fortunate enough to have an internship in the field of impact investing at Acumen Fund, I’m constantly asked about my experience and tips for how to get into a popular and quickly growing field. Here are a few tips that I hope are helpful:

GET IN THE LOOP

Events and organizations focused on impact investing are popping up everywhere. GIIN (Global Impact Investing Network) has weekly emails and events bringing together people from all over the sector. Closely follow organizations such as Acumen Fund, Rockefeller Foundation and ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) and the content, open panel events and industry conferences that they attend.

INTERNSHIPS AREN’T ONLY IN THE SUMMER

Academic internships are one of the most valuable ways to get involved and noticed within the Impact Investing sector. Taking advantage of a flexible class schedule, you may be surprised by the less than 20 hour a week arrangements that organizations–many of which are hungry for valuable resources–might consider. Some will offer payment, others will offer school credit and for some it will need to be on a volunteer basis.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

With now hundreds of players in the sector, there is a broad range of approaches, structure, and specialties. Many are drawn to the sector because it seems to combine the moral validation of philanthropy with the prestigious rigor of finance, but the field is diversifying and developing quickly. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to understand these subtleties. The basic definitions of “returns” and “capital” can have different meanings among proponents of impact investing and between different firms.

Some key players in this sector are part of broader ecosystem of foundations, venture philanthropists, nonprofits, technical assistance providers, financial institutions and a growing number of major corporations. Just check out the ANDE membership to see the diversity among members.

FIND THE RIGHT FIT

In a rapidly growing but still relatively young industry, you’ll find different funds with similar philosophies pursuing different goals with varying strategies. While linked by a common thesis, they all have varying sector and geographical focuses and even slightly different priorities. It is important to really look into the aspects of each to find your best fit. If your interest lies in New York, look to the New York City Investment Fund or Contact Fund. If you love the idea of investing in farming look to Root Capital. From healthcare investments to financial inclusion to domestic issues or international development, there are now a range of approaches and sub-sectors to target based on your specific experience and interest.

LOOK BEYOND PORTFOLIO

While the management of investing in enterprises is at the core of many of these organizations, there are broad range of other opportunities and ways to be impactful. In addition to the standard departments such as development, communications and finance, many impact investing organizations have departments focused on measuring and tracking impact as well as training and developing the next generation of leaders in social impact. Once inside an organization, there may be opportunities to transfer between departments and broaden your experience.

DON’T ASK FOR INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

This was one of the first (and most surprising) pieces of advice I got from my boss. But as I dug a little deeper, I understood that the advice was to ask for them in the right way. You can likely retrieve almost any piece of information from the internet. So, do your due diligence. Saying you are fascinated by the company’s growing energy investments in Pakistan and their impact on the overall stability of the country will resonate a lot more than saying you love the idea of impact investing and would like to hear more about it. Also, in the social network age, you have an opportunity to join the conversation without asking someone to give you a half an hour of their time. If you demonstrate your interest, knowledge, and ability to contribute before you even make the ask, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a chance to sit with someone to learn about opportunities to get more involved.

TO CONSULT OR NOT TO CONSULT

A question nearly every MBA ponders is whether to do the more traditional on-campus recruiting or to pursue individual opportunities. A number of senior leaders in the impact investing world have come from finance and consulting backgrounds and it has served them well. Both these sectors provide valuable insights that are essential to what firms like Acumen, Omidyar, Bamboo Finance, IGNIA and others do. However, this is not a prerequisite. There is a growing number of leaders who are sector experts, legal professionals, veterans of the non-profit world and others who are bringing their talents and knowledge to the table.

___

Emma Vaughn is a former Summer Associate in her second year at Columbia Business School where she is focused on media management and social enterprise

Comments

Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY! [Read More]

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka, Canada and Malaysia.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [Read More]