Three inspiring Edinburgh alumni, Andrew Bailie of Social Bite, Tabitha Ewing of Assist Social Capital, and Zoe Greenfield of International Network of Street Papers joined Lorna Baird of Launch.ed in sharing some key messages for students and graduates wanting to make a social impact.
Here’s their advice for you.
Use your student status – but only when it suits you! Play an active part in societies such as FreshSight, Enactus, or Edinburgh Entrepreneurs to get experience. Volunteering‘s also a great way of finding what interests you and while you’re a student Students’ Association Volunteering can help match you up with opportunities and even help fund projects of your own. Andrew says: remember that as a student you’re in a good position to reach out to people in industry and other walks of life – they may feel flattered by your interest, rather than threatened – but once you’re actually involved in an enterprise you’ll want to prove yourself by the contribution you make. So use your student status as a tool, but don’t let yourself be defined by it.
Know yourself. Identify your own passions and tap into your own value system. “Sleep in the Park” was the lightbulb moment for Andrew, motivating him to want to end homelessness. Zoe’s experience as an unemployed graduate made her determined to work towards promoting dignity and respect, and recognising the value in people. Tabby, on her return to the UK, found the social enterprise sector offered parallels to the work she’d enjoyed in Peru encouraging alternative income generation in a small village. Know enough about your areas of interest to be able to discuss them with energy and confidence.
Build your brand and identity on social media. Zoe always checks people’s profiles – don’t overlook this way of demonstrating your informed interest in a cause. Retweet, repost, share and comment! Lorna strongly recommends this as a way of making yourself known. If you can offer a different perspective, share it, says Tabby. Be open about it, be positive. And social media’s also a great way of keeping in touch (see next tip).
Never burn any bridges. Always keep in contact with people you’ve worked with or had a conversation with. Zoe returned, as a consultant, to the organisation she’d interned with years before. Tabby seeks opinion and temperature checks from her fellow UoE alumni. Bear in mind that this sector has many small – and very small – organisations, and working relationships will need to be good. If you’re already known to a recruiter they may feel more confident in hiring you. And the more connected you are, the more opportunities will arise.
Don’t be afraid to move jobs every so often. Career paths aren’t linear. You’re likely to benefit from wider responsibilities in a small organisation, but resources are also likely to be scarce and moving around may be the only way to get exposure to a different area. If you see an opportunity somewhere, go for it…make suggestions, put forward a proposal. Be bold, says Lorna. A positive and confident attitude is essential. Know that it’s ok to get out there and ask for things. A great example of this was given by Zoe, who, on hearing that she’d missed out on a job simply because the other candidate had experience of using a particular database, asked for the opportunity to do unpaid work experience at that organisation in order to learn how to use the database, thus filling a skill gap. After a couple of months she was offered a job there.
Andrew Bailie, Corporate Engagement, Social Bite.
Andrew graduated with an MA Philosophy and Politics degree in 2018 and joined the well-known Social Enterprise Social Bite in May. Andrew built up considerable experience in the Social Enterprise sector whilst he was still a student, much of that through his involvement with FreshSight.
Tabitha Ewing, Project Coordinator, Assist Social Capital
Tabitha graduated with a BSc in Ecology in 2013. She worked in a range of ecology related roles since graduation, starting with Mara Seaweed in Edinburgh and then moving onto a range of roles with the CREES Foundation in Peru. Since 2016 she has been working on a sustainable development project with Assist Social Capital, a UK based Community Interest Company whose vision is for communities to become self-organised, resilient and thriving by maximising social capital.
Zoe Greenfield, Operations Manager, International Network of Street Papers
Zoe graduated with an MA (Hons) Geography degree in 2008. She has gone on to work with a range of charities and social enterprises tackling many social issues including homelessness and mental health. Zoe is currently Operations Manager at INSP, working with more than 100 street paper social enterprises in 34 countries. Her professional interests include social enterprise, poverty alleviation, social justice, independent media, profit with purpose, and digital innovation.
Meet representatives of similar organisations on Thursday 11th Oct 2018 at: Careers Fair: Volunteering and Third Sector Jobs,