Job Hunting in CSR, Part II: Connecting Corporate Responsibility with Career Objectives
This is the second excerpt from a series of interviews I conducted with four MBA candidates who graduated—or expect to soon—with a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR). [Read the first part on Vault's CSR blog: In Good Company] In this portion, the graduates discuss their myriad backgrounds, and how they came to focus on CSR as a career choice.
None of the graduates started business school with CSR in mind: Ashley Jablow's* background is in nonprofit fund raising; Geetanjali Singh worked in technical training and communication; Whit Tice specialized in project management and quality testing; Larry Furman spent almost three decades in IT and database administration.
For each of the four, the motivation for attending business school stemmed from a recognition that they needed to expand their skill sets. But what prioritized their focus toward CSR was the realization that its core principles were the necessary bridge between civic and corporate good. As Jablow put it, "My initial thoughts were in the direction of corporate philanthropy. It was really through all the core classes and business training I realized that CSR is an incredible opportunity for there to be alignment between business, community and environmental goals—that there really are opportunities to create those win-wins, where a business can be about making money and be a good corporate citizen."
2008's spectacular collapse of revered Wall Street institutions like Lehman Brothers helped underscore their interest. Both Singh and Jablow noticed that conversations inside and outside the classroom were increasingly veering toward questions of ethical mismanagement, risky and unsustainable behavior, and short-term decision making, often leading to lengthy debates on responsible business practices. Many times, these extended to self-doubt and asking themselves what this meant for their personal career objectives. As they watched the financial industry get drastically reshaped, students like Tice refocused their career trajectory to align with personal priorities.
For Geet Singh, the transition from mere interest in CSR to core career focus was enhanced by the essay-writing pre-admission process. Much like Jablow, for Singh it made the perfect link between corporate and social. "My work with Cisco had allowed me some insight into their exemplary corporate responsibility initiatives and I decided to talk about social entrepreneurship in my essays. My niche became helping companies do CSR as well as helping the community who needs it the most and becoming that link between corporate and social."
Tice, with a few more years of work experience under his belt than Jablow and Singh, connects corporate responsibility with his penchant for systems thinking. He explained: "While you may understand the three Ps, it's what happens next that is important. This comes about by taking different facets of organizational life and applying a wider range of thinking that goes beyond questioning 'Should I use paper cups instead of Styrofoam cups because that's bad for the environment?' to 'Are we going to create more waste with these paper cups? Will the transportation costs and emissions that the paper cups require to get here actually be more waste or harm to the environment than, say, using the Styrofoam cups?'"
In the end, he said, it's simply about a shift from simple thinking to complex and long-term thinking because of a realization that the tradeoffs are not usually simple and transparent.
Next week: Dilemmas of conducting a job search in CSR.
*Ashley Jablow graduated from Boston University's School of Management with an MBA in CSR Marketing, Communications and Strategy in May, 2010. She is actively engaged in discussing CSR through Twitter and her blog, The Changebase. Currently, she is looking for a fulltime job in corporate responsibility in the San Francisco area.
Geetanjali 'Geet' Singh graduated in June 2010 from University of California-Irvine's Paul Merage School of Business with a concentration on CSR, general management and strategy. Formerly from Mumbai, India, Singh is currently looking for a corporate responsibility job in Orange County, California and hopes that Silicon Valley will wake up to the business value in CSR. Connect with her on Twitter.
Whit Tice graduated with an MBA from Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management in 2008 and decided to back it up with a Master's in Positive Organizational Development and Change, also from Case Western, which he completed in 2009. Whit is currently with consulting firm Logic 20/20, where he is a Change Management Senior Consultant, and continues to discuss systems thinking and organizational development through his blog, The Organizational Strategist.
Larry Furman is a Sustainability Consultant and currently pursuing an MBA in managing for sustainability from Marlboro College. He is a member of the program's first graduating class and is looking forward to combining his experience in IT with his passion for sustainable energy and green solutions.
Aman Singh is the CSR Editor at Vault.com, where she focuses on how corporate diversity practices and sustainability translate into recruitment and strategic development. Her blog, In Good Company, discusses on many of these issues.