Breaking into social impact careers with a business school degree

Social impact careers: for jobs that make a difference

For the overwhelming majority of graduates (91%), a key feature they are looking for as they enter employment is a job that makes a difference.  
It’s no surprise then that social impact careers are increasingly the target of graduate aspirations. Though traditionally associated with charitable organizations or non-profits that provide services for communities in need or target environmental issues, its scope has broadened in recent years as governments, consumers, and companies have shifted their priorities and values. 

Whether you are looking to work at a charity, found your own company with a social impact mission, or help an established corporation meet sustainable development goals, investing in your business strategy and management skills is a great way of breaking into a social impact career. 

The rise of the ESG and B corporation movements in particular, signal clearly that in businesses and boardrooms of all types, there is a strong demand for managers and executives that can lead organizations to make a positive difference, instead of just making money. 

Master’s degrees and MBA’s can lay the foundations for social impact careers by developing a comprehensive understanding of how global businesses function and where the best opportunities may lie for implementing more sustainable practices. At ESMT Berlin, sustainability is embedded into the programs we offer. Indeed, the school’s mission is to:  
“…develop entrepreneurial leaders who think globally and act responsibly” 

One way in which we can help direct graduates towards social impact careers is with the Responsible Leaders Fellowship (RLF), which offers students a unique opportunity to blend learning and real-world application by directly applying the insights and theoretical knowledge they have learned to global challenges. 

This experience not only enriches the academic journey of those that take part but also hones their leadership qualities and prepares them for impactful careers that can make a difference. 

What is the RLF? 

The Responsible Leaders Fellowship is a program open to MSc and MBA students after they complete their studies at ESMT. In it, fellows deliver a pro-bono service and assume responsibility in an institution at the forefront of social challenges, often in countries with developing or emerging economies.

For those studying in Germany on a visa, it offers an opportunity to extend their student status and make a positive impact, before being granted the 18-month work visa that follows graduation at ESMT. 

The RLF is designed to empower graduates to take what they have learned during their studies and leverage their new skills in meaningful projects that address global social challenges. 

First-hand experiences from the RLF

Tudor Dima 

Image of RLF participant Tudor Dima during his time in Brazil

“When I applied for the RLF, my aim was to gather experience in social and environmental business models while discovering the culture of South America. Through good fortune, I connected with the leaders of 2.5 Ventures, and it was a great match that brought me to Brazil. 

Being the most innovative country in South America, Brazil is witnessing rapid growth in the Environmental, Social, Corporate Governance (ESG) sector, particularly considering the global importance of the Amazon region. The country also boasts a rich, unique, and diverse culture. Now, after 3 months, I can confidently converse in Portuguese and have deepened my knowledge in ESG, Impact Investing, and related topics in the intersection of digital innovation for ESG projects.” 

Krishna Mohan 

“I am extremely grateful for the transformative journey that I got to experience with the CyberPeace Institute based in Geneva, Switzerland between October 2023 and February 2024 while participating as a part of ESMT Berlin’s Responsible Leaders Fellowship program. 

My experiences allowed me to cultivate a nuanced understanding of global cyber threats and contribute towards the vital mission of fostering cyber peace for the vulnerable. 

I have had the opportunity to collaborate with the (lovely, extremely diverse, and enthusiastic) Threat Intelligence team to conduct various impactful analytical projects with a primary focus on identifying, visualizing, and presenting emerging cyber threats in multiple regions across the globe. 

This hands-on, truly unique, and enriching experience has not only fortified my commitment towards digital responsibility but also significantly contributed to fostering my personal development.” 

Antariksha Rajkumari  

“During my Responsible Leader’s Fellowship Program, I worked with Manos Verdes, an organization that works on circular economy and waste management in various provinces of Argentina in collaboration with the government and sponsor companies. 

It has been an exceptional experience, getting to understand the intricacies of work in a totally different country with its unique culture, especially during a time of great political change that is currently taking place in Argentina. 

I have learned so much over the past couple of days as I worked alongside Manos Verdes’ founders particularly in relation to the organization’s future strategy and female-empowerment programs. 

But I also had immense fun, having Alfajores every day, getting to visit Messi’s homeland or walking around La Boca, the home of the famous Boca Juniors!” 

Image of RLF participant Antariksha during her time in Argentina.

Start your social impact career at ESMT 

An MBA or MSc can be a viable gateway to making a meaningful difference in the world. By equipping students with the tools to lead global organizations responsibly, ESMT is seeking to develop future leaders that can advocate for change and be a force for good, underscoring our belief that success in business and making a positive social impact can go hand in hand. 

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