I originally posted this as a reply on the Impact Investing Forum on LinkedIn – advice to students and graduates interested in a career path in impact investing. This is an updated version.
Although I started in more traditional fields of finance, banking and investment, one of the things that really helped me uncover my passion and find my unique place in this field was to connect and work with people from all sorts of fields and disciplines. I worked with innovators “at the bleeding edge”, facilitators and community organizers, people who worked with social purpose real estate, story-tellers, educators, futurists, designers, and architects. I stayed open to what positive impact is or could be because there are so many approaches and perspectives. I discovered how my skills, values, and things that I’m passionate about could help further social change movements, help enterprises grow, and help people and communities develop and thrive.
The other thing that has proven helpful is there are always people and organizations I want to work with and collaborate with. I go to their events, I contact them, meet them for coffee and explore how we could work together.
A good understanding of economics and the principles of finance and accounting are helpful for impact investing and developing blended value solutions to social and economic issues. In the right environment, with the right mentors, you can learn on the job through real-life application. Understanding systems and ecosystems is useful for evaluating the negative externalities of choices and decisions. My latest hypothesis is high emotional intelligence is helpful for this field. Impact has an emotional quality that cannot be analyzed with data and metrics alone (actually so does risk).
I believe impact investing is one of many movements that are converging with one another – from the growing women’s economy, to collaborative consumption, to social unrest, to more authentic and integrated ways of doing things. Impact investors not only can finance and support these positive changes, we can learn from them too.