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Maybe you’ve always wanted to do socially responsible work but you chose a different path. Maybe you’ve become more interested in the work over time. Either way, you know it’s time to make a change.

Even if you know it’s the right thing to do, moving from idea to action can feel daunting. What’s the first step: Should you polish your resume? Apply to graduate school? Start scanning the job boards?

With the help of St. Edward’s University Associate Professor of Management Brad Zehner, we’ve put together a timeline so you can know exactly what to do — and when.

Today

Head to a few job sites and dig some postings of job titles that interest you: Community relations coordinator? Social finance manager? Director of volunteer engagement? Read through the job descriptions of these postings closely and select a few that seem interesting to you.

1 Week

Find people in your network who hold or have held these jobs through sites like LinkedIn or your college career center. Over the next several weeks, set up phone or coffee meetings to ask targeted questions about the work they do. Not only can these people give you key insights on their responsibilities, but they can direct you to the best professional associations and societies linked to their field. These organizations can help you get further insight on the career you’re interested in — an approach that gives you an advantage over others. “Most people don’t think far enough ahead to get the great jobs,” explains Zehner.

2­­–3 Months

Start volunteering for the professional association most closely linked to the field you’ve chosen, even if you can only squeeze in an hour or two a week. “By getting acquainted with people in the organizations, they’ll keep you in mind for things that come up — and it’s a great way to get an informal read on an company or job you’re interested in,” says Zehner.

6 Months

Discovered a gap in your resume that no amount of job or volunteer experience will fill? By now, you’ve spent enough time to know whether or not you’re truly interested in a potential career shift, so consider whether graduate school can help you make that transition. Plus, you’ll be a stronger candidate for admission with relevant volunteer experience under your belt.

1 Year and Beyond

If you’ve chosen grad school, make the most of connections with students, professors, and the career and alumni networks. Some of the most powerful education and job opportunities you’ll get in school will come from your fellow students.

The MBA program at St. Edward’s University builds highly sought-after skills in entrepreneurial thinking, social enterprise, innovation, global collaboration and business analytics — the areas business leaders need in today’s business world. 

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.

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