Making a difference: How to choose a career that makes positive changes to society

For some people, a job is solely a way to earn money, put food on the table and pay the bills. For others, there is a genuine desire to embark on a career path of real meaning and substance, one that can make a huge difference to the lives of the individuals they come across and society as a whole.

Everyone takes value from things in their own way, but there’s no doubt that job satisfaction is inextricably linked to achievements and accomplishments. For many, that’s found in making a positive difference that goes beyond spreadsheets, sales meetings and carefully worded social media posts.

How can you go about finding a career that not only brings monetary worth but also feelings of self-fulfillment and gratification?

Improving lives one at a time

Perhaps the most obvious career paths that make a difference to society are those in the healthcare sector.

Doctors, nurses and surgeons deliver tangible benefits to their patients by easing physical suffering, offering reassurance after a life-changing diagnosis, and providing a care plan that can improve the lives of individuals as best as they possibly can.

While we all understand the need for physical treatment when required, there is still a lack of awareness regarding mental health. Many people, sadly, still have a “stiff upper lip” attitude that prevents them from talking about how they are feeling.

Not all ailments can be resolved with a plaster cast or a dose of antibiotics, and there is a sense that the mental health profession is one that is in dire need of support at a governmental level. More funding needs to be forthcoming, and more mental health practitioners need to be recruited so that adequate service levels can be provided to those who need them the most.

The truly eye-watering statistic is that an estimated 132 million Americans have had, or continue to have, some form of mental illness, but a crippling lack of staff to support them is a cause for considerable concern in getting these individuals the right care in a timely manner.

To that end, becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is a career path that proves incredibly rewarding to those who undertake it, partly because there is such a dire need for skilled nurses, but also because this is a profession in which you can make a difference to so many lives in a significant way.

You might think that this option is not available to you, but nursing degrees – and many other subjects – can be studied online in a flexible way that suits you. These degrees are typically accredited with a recognized industry body, and many online learners start a journey toward a whole new career path while remaining in their current job.

Raising a family? Caring for an elderly relative? You can still take on a degree course, allowing you to work on your assignments at a time that suits you. Whether you are an early bird cramming before work or a night owl who finally gets a moment of peace after the kids have gone to bed, you can find a flow and a rhythm that enables you to study and live your life in perfect harmony.

Some online courses relating to the healthcare sector require practical sessions in a clinical placement or similar real-world environment. Many online degree courses account for this, and some institutions will even locate a preceptor (as placement providers are known) that is as close as possible to your current abode. That way, you don’t need to worry about childcare or begging somebody else to look after mom and dad.

If you are interested in taking a career path that genuinely helps you to aid the lives of individuals and society, working in the healthcare sector – either in physical or mental health therapy – is unrivaled in its ability to make its employees feel like they are making a real difference.

Fighting for the rights of others

Another way in which you can make a difference in society is by shouldering the burden of those who need assistance with legal or ethical matters.

We can loosely label these under the term “advocacy”, and the great thing is that you don’t need to spend years and years crunching the books at law school in order to help people and communities access the rights they should expect.

A victim advocate, for example, combines elements of the legal profession with social work, and provides holistic support and assistance to anyone who has been on the receiving end of a crime. Advocates provide emotional care and reassurance, and some also go on to provide legal advice and assistance to individuals in conflict with loved ones or their employer.

Advocates are employed by a wide range of different organizations, including healthcare providers, government offices, law enforcement and charities, and across the board, the feelings of satisfaction and gratification are obvious when you can take a distressed individual and lead them to calmer waters.

Sourcing medical aid

Sadly, there are situations developing all around the world in which people are unable to access the help they really need.

While this encompasses both physical and mental support, the scenario is usually so bad – whether it is because of military action, a freak weather event or famine – that the help required goes beyond the individual level and instead seeks to assist entire towns and communities.

A humanitarian aid worker is faced with the unenviable task of accessing medical assistance, food and other supplies in situations where money is prohibitively tight. On top of that, they are also essential in delivering aid on the ground through the coordination of volunteers and support staff.

In an article in which we are considering which career paths offer the most help to society, it’s hard to imagine that any vocation delivers the same kind of societal gain as helping entire communities of people who have been ravaged by the worst that mankind or mother nature can throw at them.

Unearthing stories

Those with a flair for writing and an inquisitive mindset can do plenty of good as a journalist at the local, national, or international level.

With the rise of social media and the increasingly plausible concerns that the news agenda has been shaped by those with only their own gain in mind, the need for journalists and reporters who are able to find stories of substance has perhaps never been greater.

You probably know about the work of investigative journalists already – those hardy souls who dig deeper than anyone else to find stories that shock and anger in equal measure. But local reporters are still of vital importance in keeping communities informed and in ensuring that the glue that binds societies together is not fragmented by those with an agenda that requires division and unrest.

If you are a skilled writer but don’t want to be involved in the cutthroat nature of journalism, there are other ways you can put your pen to good use. There are public relations and publicity jobs in fields like activism and lobbying, where you can help to shine a light on injustices and problems that simply must be explored in greater detail.

Whether it’s climate change, racial discrimination, gender inequality or human rights, there are many different issues in society that require the help of activists to ensure that important messages are heard.

Lobbyists, meanwhile, play their part in persuading the government to make change at the regulatory level. Often working for non-governmental agencies, you will be tasked with finding the information and data that backs up the need for legislative change, aiding the improvement of society on a wider level as a result.

Funding and grant specialists

Although it may not be at the forefront of your mind when thinking about careers that benefit society, grant specialists play a vital role in helping local communities and charitable organizations secure much-needed funding for their projects.

The list of possible benefactors who could really use grant funding are long and varied, ranging from local community projects and sports clubs to charities and even schools that want to offer after-school clubs and activities. The commonality between all of these different organizations is that they might not have anybody who is experienced in applying for grant funding, so the individual or persons left in charge can be faced with the daunting task.

A grant specialist is well-versed in overcoming the obstacles that some charities face in accessing funding and can prepare a well written and researched plan that – almost like a business pitch – is designed to catch the eyes of those in charge of the money at the governance level.

Although you will only take on a supporting role within the organization, working as a grant specialist enables you to oversee real and tangible change when the projects that need funding the most are able to scale up – or even simply just exist – thanks to your hard work on the funding side.

Protecting the planet

With climate change seemingly unstoppable and green land being built on to accommodate the growing population, the need for conservationism and sustainability is as great now as it has arguably ever been.

By helping to preserve wildlife, protect ecology and promote green causes, you will be helping to enhance societies in ways that many people wouldn’t necessarily recognize and perhaps take for granted anyway.

Conservationists find solutions to problems in a way that enables environmental and economic needs to work together, while sustainability specialists are tasked with finding ways to help businesses lower their carbon footprint, reduce emissions, implement greener technologies and minimize their damage to the environment as much as possible.

Working with the next generation

Helping to shape the lives of the next generation is another way in which you can make an impactful contribution to society.

Working in a childcare setting or as a teacher are the most obvious paths to achieving that ambition, but there are other directions you can take to fulfill such a wish.

Youth workers perform a vital service in local communities. Some youngsters find themselves getting into trouble for a variety of reasons, and there can be few things more rewarding than helping a child or young adult take a happier, more productive route early in their lives.

The function of a youth worker goes far beyond keeping youngsters out of trouble. You will advise them on physical and mental health; provide assistance when it comes to career advice, job or college applications; and ensure that individuals are able to access additional support for their physical or mental health where required.

It goes without saying that youth work is often complex and challenging. You may be tasked with working alongside an individual who does not want your help or who continues to find trouble despite your attempts to help keep them on the right path. Some will come from abusive backgrounds or reside in what would euphemistically be called a “broken home”. Some youngsters don’t even have a fixed abode they can call home.

Youth work is, by its very nature, an almighty undertaking, but knowing you are making a tangible difference to a youngster’s life – and perhaps taking them from a road they don’t really want to be going down to a more positive place – is surely as rewarding as a workplace can get.