Throughout your life, you undoubtedly spent years honing various skills and developing important connections. Retiring doesn’t render those assets useless; maybe it’s time to put them to a more philanthropic use. If you’re looking for a greater sense of purpose now that you don’t have a 9-to-5 occupying all your time, perhaps advocacy work is right for you.
Advocacy work can take a lot of different routes. Sometimes it means spreading awareness via social media or journalistic methods, or volunteering for a non-profit organization. Sometimes it’s on a more intimate scale, such as being a patient advocate. Regardless, the common thread is dedicating time and energy to a cause that is important to you. Advocacy work can seem difficult to break into, but here are a few ways you can get your foot in the door.
Identify Your Passion
Many people discover a cause they feel strongly about while working in their career field. A nurse may have unique insights into how hospital policy could be improved, for example, or teachers might have strong opinions about school administration. While working in any system, you undoubtedly encountered areas that you thought you could improve, if only you had the time and the means to fight that battle. Well, maybe now you do.
So the first step to starting advocacy work is to identify what it is that you feel strongly about changing. Advocacy can be soul-sucking work; it may feel as if you’re shouting into the wind, or running into walls left and right. Passion can help carry you through those moments to continue working for your cause.
Perform a Skills Assessment
The next thing to consider is the strengths you bring to the table. Are you outgoing, able to handle confrontation, or doggedly pursue a goal despite numerous setbacks? Or do you prefer to work more quietly — perhaps behind the scenes — paving a path to smooth the way for those coming behind you? You’ll be most effective in any advocacy work if you can identify what you are good at, and try to pursue jobs that will benefit from those skills.
Depending on your career, you may have developed hard or soft skills that are invaluable to any organization. Accountancy, legal experience, interpersonal connections, industry insider knowledge, and technological know-how are important assets, so take nothing for granted. It might even be helpful to make a list or craft a personal resume, both for your own awareness and for prospective positions you might consider.
What Are You Looking to Get Out of Advocacy?
Before you start looking for any jobs or volunteer positions, know what you personally want or need from these roles. Do you need to earn money, and if so, how much? Are you willing to work on a volunteer basis, and for how long? Many advocacy jobs require you to start on the bottom rung and work your way into the field, so you need to be prepared for that possibility.
Start Reaching Out
Now that you’ve got a solid foundation to start from, it’s time to put yourself out there. Search for already-established non-profit organizations whose priorities align with yours. Research publications that cover your subject matter, to ascertain whether they’ve written about groups you’d like to join. Depending on what you want to do, there might be certifications you can acquire online, like those for people interested in becoming paid patient advocates.
Ways to Connect:
- Networking can be immensely helpful here. Reach out to anyone you know in the field and ask if they know of ways you can get involved, or if they can connect you with someone else.
- Sign up to volunteer, if possible, as a way to get your foot in the door.
- Send your resumé to the Human Resources department, with a cover letter clearly explaining how you’d like to contribute and what you can offer.
- Draft essays or articles, or send a pitch to any publications that cover your subject matter.
- Update your LinkedIn profile — which you should definitely have — and spread the word that you’re looking to help.
The good news is that most advocacy networks are always looking for more people to help. Your ideal position may not be available immediately, but the only way to get there is to start traveling in the right circles.
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