How To: Turn Activism into a Career


Last week, we talked to Jessica Tang about her role as President of the Boston Teachers’ Union. She spoke about how she was drawn to education as a way to channel social justice into her life’s work. Many of our readers, especially in the context of our current political climate, are eager for guidance on how to turn organizing and activism into their full time jobs. We sat down with Jessica to hear her thoughts on turning organizing into a job.

1. Find Your Cause
First, you need to figure out what issue or cause speaks most to you. What about it makes you feel most energized?

2. Ask How You Can Be Of Service Next, it’s really important to ask those who are most affected by this issue what is needed. How can you be of the most help to them? What skills can you hone that can make you better served at representing these voices? What steps do you need to take to develop these skills?

3. Hone Your Skills by Getting Involved
I did go to grad school but it wasn’t necessarily there that developed my skills as an advocate and activist the most. Speaking to community leaders has been the most impactful thing in my journey. It is really essential to get involved with organizations that are already doing the social justice work that you are interested in. Work with them and really learn from the work that they’re doing. They have so much to teach.

4. Learn from Community Elders
Lastly, remember that we are not the first to want to make change! Speak with community elders about what they have done and are doing. Honor the work that has come before us. That’s the only way we can really make sustainable change. People have been organizing long before we came along. Learn from them. Honor their work by engaging with their perspectives and building on what they have done.

Thank you so much, Jessica! You were a pleasure to talk to and we so appreciate all of your insight. We're feeling inspired and ready to move forward with this advice. Readers, after letting all of this wisdom soak in, come back next week to learn from a woman who runs an Australian milk company that supports farmers just as much as the customers!