When it comes to choosing a career path, there are a lot of considerations competing for your focus. What opportunities are available? How much can you expect to earn? What sort of education do you need? How can your existing skills and talents come into play? One factor that’s often overlooked as impractical, though, is perhaps the most critical: how can you make the world a better place through your work?
As you contemplate your future, it’s easy to feel like your chosen profession doesn’t impact the world. However, you’d be surprised by the difference even the most innocuous career can make. Think you’re “just a burger flipper?” You’re feeding people who are hungry and bringing smiles to children’s faces with each kids’ meal. You “only” do roadwork?” You’re keeping people safe whenever they cross that road. With a slight mindset shift, it’s easy to see any career as benefitting others.
If you want to make a more direct difference, though, there are certain careers you might prefer to focus on. There are the typical impactful occupations, like becoming a doctor, teacher, or first responder. These sorts of jobs aren’t the only ones you can look to for a direct impact on individuals and the world at large, though. There are plenty of other career paths that allow you to make a difference in ways that are often unexpected.
When some people think of activists, they think of unpaid efforts like protesting or charity work. In many roles, though, you could participate in ample activism in the process of your typical workday. For example, you might follow in Malliha Wilson’s footsteps.
The former Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the Ontario government was the first visible minority to hold that position, making a statement just by being in that role itself. She did not stop there, however—with a passion for human rights, Malliha works in specialty legal work where she can implement change through the day-to-day process of her job. Malliha focuses her attention on cases involving Indigenous rights and human rights, labour law, and other fields where she can remain directly involved in activism while building a truly inspiration career along the way, You don’t need to follow Malliha’s steps exactly, but you can use her experience as inspiration for adding activism to any career path, whether you have a law degree or not.
When you imagine a person working as a caregiver, you likely picture one of the most well-recognized forms. A nurse practitioner, for instance, works with patients, saving and improving lives each step of the way. However, you might not always recognize the caregiving efforts of people in less visible—yet just as impactful—roles.
A person working at The Hope House, for example, is undoubtedly making a difference through care. Unless you live with addiction yourself or love someone struggling with alcohol or other substance abuse, you might not visit The Hope House’s website (thehopehouse.com) to learn about the rehab facility or the work they do in addiction treatment and mental health care. Nevertheless, these caregivers, comprised of a compassion-focused interdisciplinary staff, make a significant difference in not just each client’s life, but in those of the people who care about him or her. With years of experience in treating those struggling with addiction, these mental health professionals can treat not just addiction but the mental health issues that are often its root cause.
3. Mental Health Professionals
Healthcare professionals are certainly recognized as making an impact but, until recently, the stigma surrounding mental health care made it so that mental health providers did not make as great a difference as their colleagues focusing on physical health and wellness. Whether it’s a therapist in Baltimore, MD, or a psychologist in Washington State, mental health providers are following a critical career path in terms of impacting others.
The work of psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals is truly some of the most impactful work a person could do. When someone searches “psychiatrist in NYC,” they’ll get more than just an appointment—they’ll learn to understand and better cope with their ADHD or other mental health disorders. By extension, he or she will regain control of their life through medication, psychotherapy, and overall treatment plan. Then, that same patient can go on to make a difference in others’ lives, perhaps becoming a life coach or connecting with their children on a whole new level.
4. Career Counselors
You might realize that mental health care providers can make a difference, but what about counselors more generally? Those focused on career development, in particular, can have an impact that compounds more than they might even realize.
Career counseling goes well beyond the school counselor suggesting college options. As a qualified career specialist, a mental health professional can go beyond conventional mental health treatment options by diving into work and career issues in a safe space.
You and your career counselor will determine the best treatment options for you, whether that’s treating anxiety disorders or creating career plans that offer a positive change in any areas where you might be struggling. You might be fresh out of high school, navigating college admissions, and unsure of what career choice might be a good fit. Or, you may be looking for a career change later in life, struggling with a toxic workplace, or wanting to shift out of an unfulfilling occupation. Whatever your career goals, a career counselor can help you change your life for the better, starting with your career and moving through your life as a whole.
When choosing a career path and searching for one that makes a difference in the world, fields that are focused on consequential change and compassionate care should be at the forefront of your mind. Furthermore, these same sorts of roles might help you reach your own career goals. Whether you’re meeting with a career counselor to contemplate a potential occupation or you’re working with addiction specialists to conquer substance abuse disorder, other professions make it possible for each and every person to have an impact on a global scale, with their clients having the chance to go on to do the same.