– Aneesh Raman is a former presidential speechwriter for the Obama administration and the current VP of Growth at Raise.me.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Fortune calling on more technology companies to focus on broad social impact and, in doing so, described my recent job search to find a company that was already delivering on that promise.
Well, it turns out, a lot of us are on that search.
Over the past few months, a few dozen people – from recent business school grads to mid-career professionals to family friends – reached out to say they felt a kinship to the cause. And all of them wanted to know the specific steps I took to find my current job.
Using my own experience as a guide, here’s a list that will hopefully help you in your job search.
Step 1: Ask yourself what exactly you want to impact. Impact is a fun word, but it’s also too mushy to inform a job search. If you want an “impact job,” you have to first figure out what exactly you want to impact. Is it the environment or health care or education or urban planning or voter engagement or something specific to your life or your community? For me, for all the reasons I laid out in the Fortune piece, it was unsticking economic mobility in America. Whatever it is for you, it has to be authentic and deep and abiding so you can stay motivated during the ups and downs of the search and eventually the job. Achieving broad social impact in the private sector is hard. The current system isn’t built for it.
Step 2: Talk to a lot of people. I spoke to well over a hundred people during my search, starting with family and friends. That turned out to be enormously helpful because with family and friends, I could think out loud and lay out a vague goal like, “I want to do something related to economic mobility in the tech sector.” Those conversations, and the hard follow-up questions I got as a result, pushed me to narrow my focus.
Step 3: Space, size and role matter. One of the best pieces of advice I got during my job search was to organize my thinking into three buckets – space, size and role – and then figure out what matters most. Space comes from the area you most want to impact, but size and role are more nuanced. For example, if you don’t want to work any nights or weekends, a larger organization with established processes may be a better fit. Conversely, if you’re trying to expand your resume with new skills and a new role, working for a small startup may best align with your goals.
Step 4: Online date. At this point, you’re ready to talk to specific companies about specific roles but you need to actually find those specific companies and specific roles. The best way to start is by going to the websites of all the major venture funds and accelerators. Look through all their portfolio companies. It’ll take you a while, but it’s worth it because, as you react to all those “big idea” mission statements, you’ll get a better sense of what kind of company excites you. By the end, you’ll find out which companies truly resonate with you. Make sure to run a background check on AngelList to see whether they’re at the right stage and have the right job openings given your earlier decisions on space, size and role.
Step 5: Perfect your pitch. At this point, you’ve got a list of companies you’re excited about, but they don’t know about you yet. That’s good because you want to make sure you’ve got your pitch down. Go back to your family and friends, and practice describing how your background fits with what you’re looking for in the next opportunity. Keep practicing until you’ve got a compelling and simple story.
Step 6: Ask about revenue. Once you start interviewing at companies, remember that it’s a two-way conversation. With “impact companies,” you can usually tell from meeting with the team whether the mission is genuine. What’s harder to tell is whether the business plan is solid. A simple way to check is to ask if they are making money. If so, how? If not, when and how? “Impact companies” don’t get extra credit from the market for being impact-focused. You need to make sure the company isn’t just doing great things but is building a great business, too.
Step 7: Go with your gut. If you’re looking to join an “impact company,” you are someone who is expecting more out of your job than the size of your paycheck. So at the end of your search, as long as you’ve done your due diligence, go with your gut. The right offer is the one that resonates with you personally and addresses the issue you most want to impact in the world.