12/13/2012 05:53 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2013

Finding a Job Where You Can Make a Difference

As the New Year approaches, many people start to reflect on their lives and their careers. If you are one of the millions of people who want to do work that is mission driven, you may be interested in a job in the "social sector." The social sector includes nonprofits, government and for-profits focused on social impact. From college graduates to mid-career sector switchers to retirees, the number of people looking to work in the social sector has grown tremendously in the last decade.

As the CEO and Founder of ProInspire, a nonprofit developing the next generation of nonprofit leaders, I have spoken with hundreds of people hoping to use their passion, skills and experience for social impact. Through the ProInspire Fellowship, we have helped young business professionals move into the nonprofit sector over the last four years. Along the way, we have gathered some suggestions for people interested in pursuing this path.

Start at the Right Place

As you start searching for jobs in the nonprofit sector, you should make sure you are looking in the right places. Many nonprofits recruit through job boards focused specifically on the sector, versus traditional job boards. Some of the most well-known nonprofit job boards are:
Idealist -- the "go-to" site for nonprofit jobs, they feature entry-level, mid-level, senior positions and internships.
Bridgespan -- focuses on mid-level and executive nonprofit jobs.
Craigslist -- while they do not focus on nonprofit jobs, it is popular for job postings from smaller organizations.
Opportunity Knocks -- another popular nonprofit job board.

If you have a targeted interest, like impact investing, you should follow specialized boards that have postings that may not be listed on the general sites above. Some of these specialized job boards include:
DevNet -- jobs in international development
Foundation Center -- jobs in foundations and nonprofits
Give to Get Jobs -- jobs in for-profits with social impact
Global Impact Investing Network -- jobs in impact investing
Microfinance Gateway -- jobs in microfinance
Next Billion -- jobs in development through enterprise

Jumpstart Your Career With a Fellowship Program

Fellowships can be a great way for people to enter into the social sector. While most people doing a Fellowship take a pay cut, the opportunities for learning and access to new networks are tremendous. I did the Harvard Business School Leadership Fellows program in 2005 and worked at Accion, a leading microfinance organization. The HBS Fellowship provided me an entry point into the microfinance sector, and connected me with other MBAs pursuing nonprofit careers. There are hundreds of Fellowship programs out there, but most are very competitive because they select a limited number of Fellows each year. Here is a sampling of some great programs:

• Well-established Fellowships like City Year and Public Allies receive support from AmeriCorps and have opportunities for people of varying levels of experience to make a difference in local communities.
• Recent college graduates should check out programs like City Hall Fellows (work in city government), and The New Sector Residency (work for a social enterprise).
• Early career professionals with two to five years of work experience should look at programs like my organization, ProInspire (work in economic development, impact investing, international development, youth and education), Acumen Fellows (work in impact investing), Code for America (work in city government) and Education Pioneers (work for an education organization).
• Mid-career professionals can consider the Broad Residency (work for a school system), Fuse Corps (work in city or state government), and REDF Farber Fellows (work in a social enterprise).
• For Boomers ready to retire or start their second career, look at Encore Fellows and ReServe.

Work With Recruiting Firms as an Additional Resource

For more senior level roles, nonprofits and social enterprises are increasingly working with recruiting firms or headhunters. Here are some of the recruiting firms focused specifically on the nonprofit or social enterprise sector:
Commongood Careers
Isaacson Miller
Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group

If you are ready for a job where you can have a social impact, I encourage you to start exploring these resources for opportunities in the social sector. Job searching is never easy, but there are many paths to finding a mission-driven career that will bring more satisfaction when you go to work everyday!

Get more information on finding opportunities in the social sector at ProInpsire.