Not Getting Boxed In as a Do-Gooder

In Switzerland I met a bright, ambitious young man who has spent a couple years in consulting and is now trying to figure out what to do next. He’s intrigued by the non-profit sector and social entrepreneurship. But he’s concerned that excessive non-profit time on his resume, while he’s still young and trying to establish credibility, will make it seem soft; in other words, he’s afraid of being pigeon-holed as a do-gooder.

It’s a fair concern and relates to what seems like a massive challenge in the non-profit world: how to recruit the best and brightest young people into a sector that generally pays less and (exceptions notwithstanding) is filled with lower caliber people than in the private sector.

Teach for America has done a brilliant job at generating some caché around its jobs. My understanding is this is due to their ultimate effectiveness in the classroom (but since this is not enough by itself) it’s also due to their selectivity and how they brand this selectivity. However they do it, they have made it sexy for its young workforce to say they are a teacher for TFA at a cocktail party.

I can’t think of another non-profit which in so short a period of time has established itself as an elite, selective organization which will only hire the best.

All companies would do good to learn from TFA’s remarkable positioning / branding job.

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