Investing in the Next Generation of Social Impact
July 13, 2021
When I started out, the careers service at my university was not a lot of use. While the big banks and management consultancies rolled up to careers fairs with their shiny graduate recruitment programs, there wasn’t a lot of information and advice around getting into the social impact sector. There are a number of reasons for that, of course, from the lack of graduate programs in social impact organisations to the fact that the landscape was more limited. B-Corp organisations like Purpose just didn’t exist yet, and the only real pathways were into charities and the UN through unpaid internships.
After a brief foray working in television, I subsequently undertook two full time internships over an 18-month period: one unpaid and one low paid. I worked in a pub in the evenings and a bookshop over the weekends as a signal to myself that I was independent and able to support myself through these experiences. However, at the time, I didn’t appreciate the safety net that was there for me through my privileged background, my education, and my race. Would I have pursued those internships that set me on the pathway of my career had my situation been different? Would I have even got those opportunities had I come from a different background?
Through lucky breaks, good timing, great mentors, and a little bit of hard work, I am in a position where I now have the responsibility for building teams. Creating pathways into Purpose where we can invest in the next generation of social impact strategists, campaigners, and creatives is not just important for our ability to have impact, it is also one of the things that I love most: mentoring and working with young talent and seeing people grow into leaders. Running internships that are paid at a living wage has been a way that we can provide opportunities to people wanting to enter the social impact space. By ensuring we have paid entryways to Purpose, and through working with some incredible partners, we aim to ensure these opportunities are economically viable for students and graduates from less privileged backgrounds.
Over the years, we have established partnerships with incredible organisations that have enabled us to connect with candidates from minority backgrounds to access internship and training opportunities. In the UK we worked with a great organisation called Creative Access, and more recently, here in Australia, I was introduced to CareerTrackers, an organisation that was born in the same year as Purpose, 2009. CareerTrackers is a nonprofit that creates pathways and support systems for Indigenous young adults to attend and graduate from university, gain industry experience, and explore bright professional futures.
Last summer, we welcomed Tahlia to Purpose as our first CareerTrackers intern. Firstly, Australia is in good hands with future leaders like Tahlia. She is a smart, confident young leader, with a passion for creating social change. We got her working on a range of projects from climate disinformation to the state of higher education in Australia. She immediately and seamlessly was a part of the team, and most importantly had the confidence to roast me in her final presentation to the team at the end of her internship! I’ve not laughed as hard in a long time.
We look forward to welcoming Tahlia back and supporting her career journey. To those organisations not paying their interns, you need to start. To business leaders out there, I can highly recommend the work of CareerTrackers. And finally, to Tahlia, I want to say a big thank you. You enriched our team and our work with your passion and energy. We are looking forward to welcoming you back again soon.
By: Tahlia McKee, Former Purpose Intern
If someone were to ask you how your career started, what would your answer be? I think it is arguable that, for the overwhelming majority, the answer would be ‘an internship’. The benefits of undertaking such a venture are indisputable.
Large corporations incessantly amplify the fact that an internship is (for lack of better words) a defacto prerequisite for gaining long-term employment into nearly all businesses. After all, acceptance into such an opportunity not only allows a student to differentiate themselves from others through obtaining relevant market experience, but places a student in a far more advantageous position with them having established professional working relationships with industry specialists. The lived realities of students, however, consistently fail to be included in these narratives. For some, the pursuit of an internship is entirely infeasible irrespective of the fact the advantages are so well-known and desired.
On top of balancing academic coursework while maintaining the desired industry average, engaging with extra-curricular or student leadership opportunities, undertaking part-time work, and (heaven forbid) maintaining an active and sociable lifestyle, a low or unpaid internship struggles to be at the top of many people’s priorities. Moreover, big businesses are reluctant to alter the processes and pathways they offer provided that there will always be someone willing, and with the means, of undertaking the venture.
Companies such as Career Trackers and Purpose are an incredible exception to the rules of the game. Both organisations are establishing a means by which young, hopeful Indigenous tertiary students are able to ascertain relevant industry experience while receiving a living wage, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. It was an honor and privilege to have been able to undertake a Summer Internship with Purpose as facilitated by CareerTrackers. I was able to provide meaningful assistance on several projects – which ranged from climate disinformation, political projects, to social justice initiatives – while actively growing my professional domestic and international network. I was given room to develop as a young professional by constantly being put outside of my comfort zone, all while having the active encouragement and support of the Sydney Purpose Team.
I would like to thank the Purpose Sydney Team, Clancy Kees from CareerTrackers, and Conor Quigley from LinkedIn. Without their advice, assistance, and encouragement, I would not be in the position that I am currently in. Their unwavering commitment to facilitate an equitable working environment, their desire to create and establish pathways for up-and-coming leaders, as well as their positive attitudes have ensured that my interests and passions can be pursued wholeheartedly.
It is only because of people like them that I have been provided with opportunities to grow and develop as a young professional, while continuing to focus on attaining a holistic and balanced life. I cannot thank them enough and I cannot wait to see where the future will take me.