3 Easy Ways to Make Social Good Part of Your 9–5

Neon sign that reads “Do Something Great.” Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash.

I marched out of the ocean and took a few long slow breaths — slow enough to steady my voice, not enough to talk myself out of it. Three minutes later, I gave my 30-day notice, resigning from my 6-figure senior marketing director position, a title four years in the making.

For most of us, dramatic decisions — like quitting our jobs from a beach — don’t typically happen without warning. Most often, they barely break the surface in an otherwise smooth-sailing 9–5. Big decisions to take action–like advocating for a career move, entertaining an industry change, or making philanthropy part of your business strategy–seem to move more like an ocean swell, expanding under the surface and churning quietly within us, all without rippling the visible surface. It’s quiet. It’s subtle. It’s invisible. Until it’s not.

Fostering community is my ocean swell. In previous roles as an event planner, marketing manager, art director, and editor, I served, celebrated, and connected the people in my neighborhoods And right now, with an unprecedented job market and urgent societal conversations taking place all around us, for many of us, the inner-push to contribute to these movements is as fierce as the inner-pull to retain job security.

So how can we do more good in our current jobs?

Over the last five years, while working jobs that felt oceans away from philanthropic, there are three ways I effectively honored the pull toward community service.

Just Pick a Thing!

Let curiosity be your guide. Follow the rabbit holes. If I dared to go back years into my browsing history, I could likely trace a meandering path through Wikipedia pages, Netflix docu-series, podcast episodes, and non-profit mission statements, to the early days of researching the work I’m focused on now. Sit down with a late night latte or glass of wine, turn up instrumental trap beats on Spotify (it’s my favorite focus music!), and Google one person or event that sparked your interest recently. Just start there. Tidbit by tidbit you’ll discover worlds that light a fire inside you: decisive moments, transformative art, brave leadership, fierce injustices, and lasting revolutions.

Recognize Your Resources

When I recognized my desire to elevate the voices of BIPOC womxn in climate, I took inventory of the resources I had access to within my current role. At the time, I was the marketing manager of a large Silicon Valley retail center, which equated to resources like high-traffic indoor courtyards, a website and email subscriber list, and an east side property location that was accessible to the city’s most tight-knit communities of BIPOC residents. I leveraged those resources to begin serving and celebrating this community — the ocean swell in me. I partnered with local artists to host open mic nights in the center’s courtyards; I interviewed local leaders, highlighting them in a content series; and I worked with county officials to make the center an official polling location. Inside the organization, I spoke about gentrification and unconscious bias with stakeholders. Resources can look like access to space, audience, authority, donation decisions, and simply your time and expertise.

Find Outstanding Organizations

Whatever your interest, there are likely existing organizations doing the work you care about. And whether those groups are a few miles or few continents from the latte next to your keyboard, just one email sits between you and the missions that need your support. Two volunteer resources I recommend are skill-based Catchafire and interest-based VolunteerMatch. Catchafire has hundreds of short-term volunteer projects, including one-hour consultation calls where you jump on a call with a nonprofit to answer their questions and offer your specific expertise. VolunteerMatch works with thousands of nonprofits and millions of volunteers; filter by interests and location to find relevant and regional nonprofits seeking support.

Start Now

If you feel called to do more, that call is not random.

Just pick your thing! Recognize the resources available at your current organization, and consider volunteering with outside organizations. Cumulatively, contributions from all of us are required for change.

So start anywhere. Start now.

If you feel a rising tide in yourself, recognize it. Like glimpsing land on the horizon, once you see it, let it guide you home.

Disclosure: If you feel called to change jobs or industries, big decisions require real strategy. Don’t let anyone tell you different! Before I quit my job, I developed an exit strategy — something that took me nearly a year. I then took 12 months after giving 30-day notice to fully transition away from my full-time role. This process looks different for everyone! I write about self-advocacy and remote work here on Medium and my Instagram @HeyRahRiley.

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Rah Riley

Writer, creative strategist, and ecofeminist exploring social strategies for social good. Infographics of my Medium articles can be found at @HeyRahRiley on IG.