If you’re like a lot of recent graduates, you’re probably thinking of ways to build a resume that combines both your skills and your passion for political and humanitarian issues. You’re hoping that it’s possible to use your degree for good. And if you’ve ever searched for “graduates and ethical jobs” on a search engine, you come up with hundreds of thousands of jobs and articles dedicated to using your degree for good.
The fact is, with our changing national and global political climate, along with the massive amount of crises that are coming to the forefront everyday, graduates who want to find jobs that benefit their communities are increasing. In an article by Design Week, it seems that design jobs are rising by more than 40%; this might be due to the amount of designers who are creating their own businesses or moving to work for NGOs.
So where do you start? How can you find a job or a career path that fits you the best? Is it possible to find a way to use your skills for good?
Working in a non-profit organisation will give graduates a way to impact their communities or have an influence on the international stage.
These five paths can help you make a decision. While they’re not the only ways, these will at least give you an idea of where to start looking. You might just find the path you are looking for.
Work for a non-profit
Working for an NGO, or non-governmental organisation, is a passion for many people who want to do good in the world. Working for NGOs such as Amnesty International and UNHCR is also extremely fulfilling, as these organisations work to better the lives of all people. For many graduates, this may seem like a lofty goal, especially if you’ve earned a design degree.
However, that’s just not true; many non-profit organisations are looking for graduates like you. This is because design graduates can help these groups with their social media marketing, campaigns, copywriting, and rebranding. Your skills can help the organisation move forward with fundraising on current issues, bring in new donors, and more.
For design graduates, it’s important to remember that the best way to approach non-profit organisations is to either try to obtain an internship during your last year of university or look for entry-level jobs as soon as your graduate. Additionally, if you’re looking at postgraduate study, try a degree that has an international focus to complement your design degree; understanding how other cultures work when it comes to ethical work gives you the chance to work for more non-profit organisations, including those who are not headquartered in your country.
Work for the government
Perhaps a little less well-known avenue for design graduates wanting to do good in the world is the idea of working for the government. This is especially true for you if you’re a UK citizen; the government has its own council, the Design Council, that was established in 1944 to help showcase the value of design that exists in the country. In 2011, the Design Council merged with Cabe, which is the government’s advisor to design that is in the built environment.
What does all that mean? It means that the UK believes in the value of design and its design graduates. That’s why graduates who choose to become a part of this council will find a challenging career; many of its experts work on everything from water design projects across the country to medical design for the health and safety of patients within hospitals.
It is also possible to work within governmental organisations around the world; however, some research may be needed to find a career that works well with both your ethics and your skills. However, working within the government can be one of the best ways that graduates like you have to affect change for your country: you will be in a position to understand policy, how it affects people, and how you can help advance policies that help your country.
Start your own charity
Creating a charity or ethical service-based business might be a good idea for design graduates who have an entrepreneurial mindset. Owning your own business or running a non-profit organisation will give graduates a way to impact their communities or have an impact on the international stage. It’s also a great way for you to see how your work directly impacts people in need.
Designers may participate in research after they leave university. It is a fundamental part of how our cities, companies, charities, and humanitarian causes are shaped.
A great resource is Design For Good, a project that offers graduates such as yourself a variety of resources to learn how to build your own business or charity from the ground up with ethics in mind. It is run by Ipek Altunmaral, who is a service designer and researcher that is headquartered in London. Through her design workshops and user research tools, graduates can find an ethical niche that has yet to be filled that needs their skills.
In an opinion piece that Altunmaral penned for the blog Designorate about design and refugees, she spoke about the importance of ethical businesses are playing in the refugee crisis:
“One of the most successful and leading example of sustainable system design I have seen on this (and my favorite until now) was Refugees Welcome network, which aims to find housing for migrants in urban areas. Started in Berlin, it is now spreading to other countries and cities. The project not only provides shelter to the person but gives them full cultural interaction and integration. The system is pretty simple but very impactful, just like how Airbnb matches the house owners who have available rooms with asylum-seekers and runs a crowdfunding campaign aside to cover the expenses of the room. It’s awesome because, as a project, it fosters innovative social models and behaviors. This makes it just brilliant.”
By building your own company or charity, you’re putting your design services to use. You are choosing to put your education to work to help those in the communities who need it the most. You’ll also learn new skills that will help you later in your career.
Volunteer your skills
Many design graduates don’t choose to go into public good careers straight away; some choose to get a “normal” job instead and volunteer on their downtime. This is perfectly normal and gives you a chance to find an ethical job that meets your needs. It’s also a great way to feel out charities and organisations that you might be interested in working with.
If you don’t know where to start looking for volunteer opportunities, or you think a charity couldn’t use your skills, there’s good news: they do need you and you can find them. Websites and apps like VolunteerMatch, Idealist and Do-It all have archives of companies, brands, and NGOs that need your help. Other sites, such as 99Designs and Catchafire, have a strong focus on NGOs who need designers to work for them for free because of budget constraints.
These sites generally ask for a time commitment, and most of the projects can be completed remotely. Some other projects, however, could see you working side-by-side with the NGOs for events or fundraisers. However much time you have, however you like to work, these charities and communities will work for you.
Use research to further the common good
A lot of designers participate in research after they leave university. It is a fundamental part of how our cities, companies, charities, and humanitarian causes are shaped. And you, as a design graduate, have this skill.
Research can help the world in a variety of ways: you can create a new design model for charities and how they fundraise online; how physical commodities, such as food, water and medicine can be funneled through a process to get to the people who need it; and how the government dispenses its studies and reports to the public. Designers can also make use of open data to create new projects and research emerging issues.
This thesis, written by Geeta Shroff for Carnegie Mellon in 2010, is a great example. This is a thesis that focuses on women’s empowerment in underdeveloped countries, but also has a focus on how charities can affect ethical change all over the world. It is a well-researched piece that begs a read at least once.
That’s just one example of how designers can do research, but the idea behind your research and how you approach is all up to you. If you’ve got an idea or a question about how we view ethics or humanitarian crises, write about it. If you think you have a better way to run government agencies, research why that is and let people know. No matter what you think might be a good research topic, chances are, the world could benefit from seeing your work.
You can see that you, as a design graduate, you have a lot of options when it comes to using your skills and degree for good. I’m sure you can come up with more, but this short article should be a good place to start. Just remember, whatever your perspective on design is, there are plenty of fields and causes that desperately need it.