If you’re at a stage in your life where you are deciding what career you want to go into for the first time, or if you’re looking for a complete overhaul and want to move into a job that’s more rewarding, you might want to work in a role that truly makes a difference to the lives of others. There are plenty of options out there for work you can do to make a difference, from volunteering at a local thrift store to dedicating a life’s work to a cause close to your heart. In this guide, we’ll provide some inspiration for different career paths that you can choose to go down and help you to work out what making a difference really means to you.
What Does Making a Difference Mean to You?
Before going through your career options, it would be helpful for you to sit down and think carefully about what ‘making a difference’ actually means to you, as this can mean different things for everybody. Some people find fulfilment in the things they do in their normal day-to-day roles, and feel that they can make a difference by going above and beyond even in smaller interactions with others. For some, this approach can sometimes lead to feelings of helplessness, and they would rather work in a role that makes a difference on a bigger scale. If this resonates with you, then this guide will give you a strong foundation of possible career choices.
When thinking about what making a difference means to you, it’s also important to consider why you want to make a difference. If, like many others, you value the recognition that comes with a highly respected job in which you do impactful work, you should keep this in mind as you navigate the job market to make sure that the roles you apply to offer the potential for promotion and structured recognition programs.
If your desire to do impactful work comes more from an inner sense of purpose, then such a rewards based organization may not be so important to you, and it may give you more flexibility in the approach you’d like to take to your working life. Keep this at the forefront of your mind as you go through the career options below, and you should find yourself empathizing with different aspects of each role.
First up on the list of career choices that you can truly make a difference in is the role of a social worker. Social work is a growing profession, with BLS data suggesting that by 2030 there will be an estimated 800,000 social workers in the US, up from the 715,600 in 2020. This surge in growth can be attributed to a number of factors, but the positive experiences of current social workers is undeniable.
There is a huge number of specialisms within the social work field that you could venture into, depending on where your passions and interests lie, but these include the mental health, community and school subsectors. While you can make a difference to the lives of others in any of these roles, you might find yourself drawn to one over the other. For instance, many school social workers describe their career as their ‘life calling’, as they work with some of the most disadvantaged families around the country, providing assistance during times of crises, and playing a vital role in bringing kids who are at risk into safety.
Like other community facing roles, a job in social work can be demanding when it comes to the required skill set, but many of these attributes are attainable if you apply yourself to the role and learn as much as you can. However, as well as learned skills like strong communication and organization, you’ll also need to be naturally empathetic and kind, and be able to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Once you’ve developed your career as a social worker, you’ll find that your day-to-day life is very varied; you might be visiting a client in their home one day, and then be representing the interests of one of your vulnerable clients in court the next, supporting them through a difficult time in their life.
If you’re interested in a career in social work, you might be put off by the financial burden that can often come with studying. Luckily, there are some scholarships for social work that you can apply for, and you can also take a look at what grants may be available to you as part of your degree. Although this career change is a big undertaking, the reward once you are qualified and making a difference every day will be priceless.
Family Nurse Practitioner
If you’re searching for a busy, fulfilling career where no day is the same, then a job as a family nurse practitioner might be for you. When ranking the best jobs in 2022 on work-life balance, pay levels, progression opportunities and challenges, U.S. News ranked nurse practitioners at number two, so it’s no surprise that NPs who specialize in the family sector report high levels of job satisfaction.
Like other NPs, family nurse practitioners are often responsible for ordering lab tests and interpreting their results, creating long term plans for patients and prescribing medications for a range of illnesses or conditions. On top of these responsibilities which give family nurse practitioners a great deal of autonomy in their decision making, FNPs treat patients from very young children through to the elderly, and as a result often develop long lasting relationships with them, which is a rewarding motivator rooted in compassion for others.
If you’re inspired by the work of FNPs and feel that this might be a suitable career choice for you, then a good first step into the industry is to do some research around what qualifications are needed and the different ways that you can achieve these. Many education providers offer online programs that will get you closer to your dream job, while allowing you to study from anywhere, at any time. For example, Marymount University Online offer a fantastic MSN-FNP program that will prepare you for a move into this highly fulfilling industry. Although becoming an FNP is hard work, you’ll find yourself in a rewarding career that will truly allow you to make a difference.
If you’re passionate about justice and a good communicator, a career in the legal profession might be a good match for you. It’s no secret that working as a lawyer demands intense dedication and the ability to manage a large workload. Some of the most important attributes a lawyer can possess are the capability of working independently and under pressure, as well as an intrinsic understanding of people and relationships. When coupled with having to face some difficult cases, careers in the legal profession do not come without some tough challenges. However, the pay-off for lawyers is often unparalleled job satisfaction as these individuals consistently change the lives of their clients. Winning a case after months, or even years, of tiring hard work, is highly rewarding, and allows practicing lawyers to make a difference in their own lives too. What’s more, law firms often pay a generous salary package, so you can be sure that while you’re making a difference, you can also support yourself financially, which is great if you’re looking to raise a family or live the high life.
If you’re someone who thrives off the recognition offered in some roles for work that makes a difference, then the legal profession should definitely be a big contender for your consideration. There is ample opportunity within the sphere for promotion, and your best work can be recognized worldwide at awards ceremonies and as part of monthly legal reviews which are published in journals.
What’s more, different areas of law also promote impactful work in different ways, which could be more suited to you – this is commonly seen in areas such as immigration or human rights law. This type of career may be a great choice for you, as it will allow you to combine what you’re passionate about with what you search for from a job.
For a sure-fire way to make a difference in the lives of others, getting into teaching is one of the best things you can do. Whether you’re teaching kindergarten kids basic writing skills, or you’re specializing in teaching chemistry to college students, the impact that you can have on your students is profound, and often students will remember the ways their best teachers helped them for the rest of their lives. Teaching also comes with some great opportunities for career progression and work-life balance:
- Shaping the lives of young people: As a teacher, you’ll play an instrumental role in the foundational years of young people, helping them grow into accomplished and confident individuals. This is one of the most rewarding elements of teaching and allows you to make a difference every single day.
- Work-life balance: Teachers are fortunate that they share the schedule of their students when it comes to vacation time. This makes working in the industry a great choice for parents, as you can plan your vacations around the semester, and can be on hand during evenings and weekends for your own little ones.
- Job stability: Currently, the US is facing a shortage of qualified teachers, so this is a great time to dive into the role. You’ll benefit from increased job security as a consequence, and many roles will also come with some great opportunities for promotion within the school or college.
There are even more benefits of being a teacher, so if this is a career that interests you, take a look online at some of the great resources available to help you make your decision. Once you’ve decided that you’re going to go for it, you can jump straight in to learning the skills needed and getting the right qualifications. While there are different routes that you can take to become a teacher, typically you’d need to first complete a bachelor’s degree, before completing a state-approved teaching program and passing a background check to make sure that you’re safe to go into the classroom. It’s worth taking a look into the rules in your state around how to qualify as a teacher, and then plan your further education around your goals.
Animal Welfare Officer
If you’re an animal lover, then you might be wondering how you can make a difference in the lives of our fluffy friends as part of your career, and a great option is to become an animal welfare officer. Animals around the world face different conditions and challenges when it comes to living a healthy and peaceful life, and this reality is mirrored around the US.
The day-to-day responsibilities of AWOs can be very varied, but typically your work would involve protecting the health and safety of animals in your state, usually through organizing the catching of strays, arranging veterinary attention for injured animals and promoting the interests of animals to government officials. This can be an emotionally challenging job, so it’s important that you go into this career path if you can stay calm in difficult situations and keep your emotions under control when an animal in distress needs you.
A good way to get into animal welfare as a career is to start volunteering at a local shelter, which is especially helpful if you don’t have much hands-on experience with a range of different animals. Shelters will often be a great exposure to care techniques that will come in handy but will also give you an idea of whether this is the career you want to pursue long term. If you decide you want to go for it, this is a rewarding career that you can one day look back on and know your work made a difference.
Although it can be tricky to decide what you want to do, especially when you know you want to make a difference to the lives of others in your everyday work, this guide is a great starting point to help you think more about the best option. From the document-heavy but rewarding life of a lawyer, to the busy, fulfilling career of a family nurse practitioner, you’ll be sure to find the right role in no time once you’ve decided what making a difference truly means to you.