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Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 12:09
For the greater good
By Cao Chen
Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 12:09 By Cao Chen

A group of young people take part in an afternoon workshop on "defining your personal brand and telling your story" at NYU Shanghai. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

A Social Impact and Innovation event held at NYU Shanghai's campus on March 9 gathered a group of individuals and organizations who are influencing the world to encourage students to pursue careers that serve the greater good.

"My most profound moments of fulfillment stem from being a role model to students, relying on my expertise to impart knowledge and wisdom to students"

Bai Hailun, 23, a volunteer teacher 

During the Social Impact Talks segment, four professionals delivered speeches regarding their careers and shared insights into how students can make an impact in society.

Twelve NGOs, including WWF China, Adream and Teach for China, were present at the Career Fair session after the talks. Here, students had informal conversations with the groups and learned about social impact practices. Students also got to learn more about personal branding and the challenges of volunteer work through a series of workshops.

"We hope the event can enlighten these young minds and show them that life is more than just earning a lot of money," says Tang Ji, coordinator of the campus partnerships career development center at NYU Shanghai.

"One of our stated missions is to educate the next generation of socially committed global leaders, and the presenters invited to the event embody this idea perfectly," adds Charlene Visconti, dean of student affairs at NYU Shanghai.

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Ming Khor, founder and CEO of Keru, a company that connects professionals and students with projects in the social impact sector. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

During the talks, speakers discussed the key qualities that one would need to have an impact-oriented career.

Bai Hailun, a volunteer teacher at an NGO called Teach for China, stressed the importance of following one's heart.

"My most profound moments of fulfillment stem from being a role model to students, relying on my expertise to impart knowledge and wisdom to students," says Bai.

"A good education will always teach us to be ourselves, not to imitate others. If you are able to communicate with yourself, you will find out what you really love."

Eleanor Bedford, director of programming for the United States Peace Corps in China, says that one should cultivate authentic connections and embrace curiosity. As an international development professional with 25 years of experience in conflict and crisis management, Bedford says very little of her career was planned. Rather, she just let curiosity lead the way.

Zhao Zeyu, project manager with ACCESS Health International, a nonprofit healthcare think tank. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

When she first entered the workforce in New York, she applied for every job that was related to the arts. However, she soon developed another passion when she became involved in a project campaigning for the rights of writers who have been imprisoned or threatened. "The arts seemed very boring compared to the work of a human rights researcher and fact-checker," she says.

Bedford has, since that moment, dedicated her career to the fight for human rights. Much of the work she has done prior to joining the Peace Corps includes founding an organization development consulting firm and working for the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and numerous international NGOs.

"There is no ladder, nor wrong turns," says Bedford. "If you follow your curiosity, there is only continuous learning, and then all it takes is the courage to follow it and to seize any opportunity that arises. Life is about figuring out who you are, where your greatest gifts and talents lie, and how you can make the greatest contribution to making the greatest difference in the world."

Zhao Zeyu, project manager with ACCESS Health International, a nonprofit healthcare think tank focused on improving healthcare quality and accessibility, says that there are three things one needs to become a real change-maker.

"Passion is the first thing that leads you to causes that are dear to your heart and that you're willing to spend time and effort on," says Zhao.

"The second is expertise, because the lack of it would inevitably entail blind, ineffective, or even counterproductive efforts. The last thing-the one thing that I am still lacking-is proximity."

Eleanor Bedford, director of programming for the United States Peace Corps in China. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

Zhao's job involves doing substantial research to uncover policy and business innovations in healthcare around the globe. However, he says that his involvement with the people he wants to help has been "indirect" as their struggles and predicaments are only stories in the news and statistics in research papers.

"That is why I will pursue a doctoral degree in law in 2019, where I can get closer to the problems and the people. It is only through proximity that we can effect real and lasting change," he says.

Ming Khor, founder and CEO of Keru, a company that connects professionals and students with projects in the social impact sector, shares the same sentiment on passion.

"I loved experiencing new cultures and wanted to see how I could help out, which is my passion," says Khor. "Founding a company has been rewarding but also extremely challenging, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Many of the students were grateful for the opportunity to interact with those working in jobs that make a positive impact on society. Hu Xingyu, a Grade 9 student at Shanghai YK Pao School, a nonprofit international Chinese school, says she was heartened to hear how these professionals choose service and making an impact over money and prestige.

"I'm interested in the field, and now more convinced that I should choose it as a career," says Hu.

Zhou Tianhui, also a Grade 9 student at the same school, says she was inspired by the speakers' stories and learned how she needed to prepare herself for an impact-oriented career. The junior high school girl is now a founder of a Shanghai-based NGO, Seeds United for Nature, that encourages children to participate in volunteer work.

"It's a local organization now, but I'm committed to making it global," she says.

Fu Jiani, who is pursuing a master's degree in social justice at NYU Shanghai, says the event reaffirmed her intention to have a career in healthcare and education after graduation.

"The event has helped to allay my fears of picking an impact-oriented career and showed me how to find my passion," says Fu, also a social worker that helps children with special needs.

Bai Hailun, 23, a volunteer teacher. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

According to the 2018 graduate employment report by NYU Shanghai, a number of graduates had, for the first time, chosen to work at NGOs or international organizations, indicating a growing interest in impact-oriented careers. In addition, universities are increasingly offering programs and courses specifically designed to help students enter such sectors.

Many universities today, such as the Beijing Foreign Studies University and the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, also offer students opportunities to gain work experience in international organizations.

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"It is important to be kind and make a positive impact on the lives of others through a career you love. This is the basic approach to social responsibility," says Bai.

Contact the writer at caochen@chinadaily.com.cn

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