Monthly Archives: March 2013

Three Stages of an Impact Career


Taproot founder Aaron Hurst breaks it down

by Aaron Hurst

When Net Impact CEO Liz Maw identified three kinds of impact-focused career types common among MBA students, it resonated with Net Impacters and non-members alike. So when Taproot Foundation founder Aaron Hurst shared his take on the typical trajectory of those who seek a career that makes a difference in the world, we asked if we could share it here to continue the conversation. What do you think? Does this ring true for you, or are you doing it differently?

Nearly every business professional I meet expresses a desire to make a positive impact in their career. It is a noble and very worthy goal but it is often hard to know where to start. What I have found is that for most professionals, there are three stages to an impact career. With each stage a professional takes on greater appreciation for their role and power.

1. Give Back

At this stage, we begin to realize our personal responsibility for our professional footprint in the world. We want to offset the harm we create in our jobs – even if it’s just the harm we create as consumers. We want to “give back.” This is also usually combined with an impulse to help those who have been less fortunate as well as to pay it forward for all the help we had along the way.

Common ways professionals seek to give back:

  • Donate to charity
  • Volunteer their time in the community
  • Provide their professionals skills to those who can’t afford them on a pro bono basis
  • Serve on a board

2. Do No Harm

Recognizing the harm on the earth created in some many jobs, business professionals at this stage seek to find jobs that are impact neutral. This requires looking not only at the materials you consume in your job but also the impact of the products and services you help create for the community.

Common ways professionals seek to do no harm:

3. Do Good

For business professionals for whom making a positive impact is their primary career objective, giving back and doing no harm isn’t enough. It is critical to them that the very work they are doing is making the world a better place.

Common ways professionals seek to do good:

  • Only take jobs that provide products and services that are healthy for individuals, society and the planet

How are you making an impact in your career? What stage best describes your current approach? What are your career aspirations for impact?


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Want to Drive Big Impact? Start Small


by Lily Mathews

Jessica Rudnick had big ideas when she joined a Net Impact chapter last fall, ready to make an impact on campus. But she quickly discovered it wasn’t going to be as easy as she’d hoped.

The sophomore, currently studying environmental sciences and engineering, found the Net Impact Washington University (St. Louis)undergrad chapter “tight-knit and dedicated,” yet lacking in numbers. The question loomed: how do you reach folks who haven’t integrated social and environmental values into their everyday habits? For Jessica, the answer was found in one of Net Impact’s newest undergraduate programs to date, the Small Steps Big Wins Challenge.

Even if you’re out of school, you can still learn from Jessica’s experiences. If you’re finding it difficult to enlist new people to your cause – whether it’s launching an impact initiative at work, or growing your Net Impact chapter – take heart. By employing some of the Challenge’s best strategies for success, such as starting small and identifying common ground, you can quickly find fresh faces to bring on board.

What’s your point of entry?

The secret to big success? Start small. It’s an idea often cited in social psychology and business lit. As Chip and Dan Heath explain in Switch, “Small targets lead to small victories, and small victories can often trigger a positive spiral of behavior.”

This is the guiding philosophy behind Small Steps, an undergraduate competition that awards points and prizes for taking a series of simple social and environmental actions. Cumulatively, these small decisions add up to big change. Last semester, students took more than 4,200 actions. Now in its second semester, over 50 campuses have joined on to the challenge to vie for experiential learning opportunities with executives at Kiva, as well as gift cards for REI or Timberland.

After last semester’s struggle with chapter participation, Jessica became a Small Steps Campus Director in the hopes of enlisting new students. She quickly saw that the idea of starting small resonated immediately, and discovered a lot of enthusiasm for the campaign beyond her current network. “I was surprised how much support we found among the student body outside our chapter,” says Jessica. Now Jessica’s campus holds first place on the Small Steps leader board.

Because the Small Steps actions run the gamut – from reusing a mug at the coffee shop to organizing a campus volunteer day – participants from many backgrounds can find an entry point that suits their ambitions. Whether you’re driving change on campus or in the workplace, it’s important to offer opportunities that start small, but can easily scale up.

Leveraging alliances

So you know to start small – but how do you find your target audience when recruiting for a cause? To start, it’s important to establish common ground. For Jessica, partnering with other campus organizations has been a boon for participation. The group realized that students who haven’t taken part in social change activities may very well want to take part, but might not know how.

To reach new participants, the chapter has focused on building relationships with like-minded groups. By collaborating with the university community service office, for example, Jessica’s team helped coordinate a campus-wide blood drive – which went on to rack up a number of points for the competition.

Similarly, after the team spotted the “Eat Vegetarian for a Day” action on the Small Steps website, Jessica reached out to sustainable food clubs to learn from their network and previous experience. The team’s smart choice of meeting students where they already are – tabling on the campus green, partnering with extracurricular organizations – has allowed the movement to grow. “I think the Small Steps competition is a great way to get people thinking and excited about small lifestyle changes to make a very important difference,” says Jessica.

It goes to show that sweeping change doesn’t have to be forced; it can happen organically when people find connections and are given smaller opportunities to reflect and shift their perspective.

Making lasting change

Although Small Steps just launched in January, students on many college campuses have already witnessed the transformation stemming from collective action. “I really like the idea of getting individuals to think of ways they can personally make a difference in these huge problems we face globally,” says Jessica.

What’s more, the Challenge shows that doing good doesn’t shortchange having fun – by recruiting friends to join in and compete, the impact continues to grow. If you want to make change last, remember that people often prioritize projects they care about, but especially ones they enjoy.

So as you set your sights on bigger impact, whether on campus or at work, be sure to start small – and don’t doubt the power of a good time. Just ask Jessica and all the others who’ve already taken the first steps: “It’s been a blast.”

If you’re an undergraduate looking to vie for a spot on the Small Steps leader board, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get in the game by visiting

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