Work for better societies...

The scope of the development sector ranges from charities to social entrepreneurship.

The development sector has evolved into a vibrant place to work in, full of opportunities and the flexibility to shape your career. It is no longer synonymous with being a kurta-wearing and jhola carrying NGO professionals. Over the last decade, the social sector has witnessed a paradigm shift. It is now much more diverse in terms of opportunities and thereby, more open to accepting and providing these opportunities to people from different backgrounds, with different hopes, aspirations, skill sets and visions of change.

The rise of a professional social sector in India has opened a plethora of opportunities, especially for the millennials. The bright young minds can now build a meaningful, satisfying and financially sustainable career in this field. You are no longer required to ‘sacrifice’ your life or work only as volunteers or contractual staff. 

Today, development organisations have evolved from ‘just grassroots non-profits’ to a variety of categories ranging from international social foundations, corporate foundations, social enterprises, social consulting organisations, ecosystem creators and research organisations etc.

This sector has seen a significant growth in the past decade and is witnessing the emergence of numerous job profiles and an array of viable career options to fulfil the shortage of talent. The sector has career opportunities for a varied range of professionals as job profiles include strategy building, communications and engagement, fundraising, being part of the chief executive officer’s  office (strategy, data-based decision- making, planning), programme leadership, corporate social responsibility (CSR), partnership and alliance, social entrepreneurship, operational leadership, etc. 

Development management as a concept is slowly but strongly gaining ground in the country. If you are excited about the idea of building world-class social organisations, and you want to design, implement, evaluate and monitor large-scale social interventions and develop collaborative ecosystems which can together deliver sustainable social change at scale, then you should go down the path of development leadership and management. With the changing trend, more students prefer to go to the social sector rather than opting for the corporate sector.

 

Students now have a plethora of options to pursue a career in the sector. A lot of institutes such as Azim Premji University, National Law School of India University, Delhi School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences offer quality programmes.

The booming demand and thrust for quality professionals in this segment is evident from the confidence that top-class development organisations from multiple categories are showing in hiring a new generation of professional leaders and managers for the development sector. With the increase in funding to the social sector from newer avenues like CSR and private individuals or retail philanthropy, organisations are looking for professional talent at a large scale.

People looking to build lives and careers in this sector should keep certain things in mind and the decision to build a career in this direction must be a thoughtful and rational one. It is crucial to know and analyse a few things from an individual’s point of view before planning a career in the social sector:

For passionate individuals

Working in the development sector definitely requires a combination of the head (the ability to think), the heart (the ability to empathise) and the hand (the ability to do). Unlike the corporate space, where a lot of people continue working for their whole lives without having any emotional connection with what they are doing, this is just impossible in the social sector. If you want to build meaningful and sustainable careers, then invest your time in preparing yourself to work in this sector. 

While money can be the primary driver for work in the corporate space, it cannot be the main and continuing motivation to work in the social sector. Having said that, the development sector does not require you to ‘sacrifice’ your whole life or work pro-bono and have uncertain careers (contrary to the general outdated belief). However, the most enduring reason to work in the development sector is what it does for you. If improving the lives of the underprivileged is what gives you happiness, then the sector is for you.

This desire should be based on your need to live in a society that is caring and compassionate. Social justice and equality in a society must be the goal. Do not work with this sector with a misplaced sense of power and guilt.

That said, just like any other sector, the development sector requires people with multiple skills and aspirations to play different roles. Given the complexity of social issues (education, health, livelihoods, environment etc.), we need people who understand what development means and are able to approach it more systematically and not just through ‘common sense’ — it is not only about ‘doing good’. There is a need for a professional approach that is particular to the development sector and grounded in the context of its issues. 

(The author is founder and director, Indian School of Development Management)

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