06/24/2013 10:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How-To Interview For A Social Justice Career

There's nothing all that unnerving about a social justice job interview that a really first-class miracle won't cure.

In the allotted time you are expected to confidently, but humbly, demonstrate your accomplishments and capabilities. You are probed about your deepest values and considered opinions about intractable social and environmental problems. Your character and personality are dissected. You are expected to explain your 24/7 commitment to the organization's oh-so-vital social mission while simultaneously lauding time with family, personal well-being and work-life balance.

What could go badly, right?

A job interview is a sales situation. Business blogs and magazines are filled with tips for surviving job interviews. What to wear. What to say. What not to say.

For the social entrepreneur, the subtext of every interview is Can this person sell our mission, convince a funder, persuade village elders, convey our message to the media? You are selling yourself as you are evaluated on your ability to sell.

Drawing on his obvious love of ice cream and women, Michael Bungay Stanier in End Malaria gets to the essence of how to sell yourself:

"A conversation with a stranger typically doesn't begin with a thirty-minute prep session....It's live, unscripted, and raw. It's now or never. You don't bump into a beautiful girl on the streets of New York while waiting in line for your ice cream and tell her, "Hold on. I don't have anything to say to you yet; let me just go and prepare something witty, serious, and with a dash of sincerity and I'll be right back." ....She thinks you're weird, awkward, and worse: fake," Stanier writes.

"But we do the same thing with selling. We spoil the magic by thinking that selling [a.k.a. interviewing] is a forced conversation, one that is heavily scripted. I liken selling [a.k.a. interviewing] to having an authentic, purposeful conversation in which you are yourself, not some "other" version that you save only for sales pitches. But a great many people overcompensate with unnecessary that the conversation feels rigid, forced, and bottle-necked. They squander gems of opportunity."

Job interviews occur all the time. Every person you meet is interviewing you. Every person you meet is a potential referral to your perfect job fighting injustice.

Every job interview, and every person you meet, is a gem of opportunity.