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Motivated by Activism, By: Shoffana Sundaramoorthy, Third-Year Student, Wilfrid Laurier University

Working a job has become an integral part of our lives. It is as though finding a full-time position following your post-secondary graduation is like this “rite of passage” into adulthood. When we contemplate precisely why we strive to work, a prominent reason would be to ease our impending financial obligations. Other common answers would be to fulfill our life’s purpose or be satisfied by the work at hand. 


Motivations for Work 

First and foremost, I do want to highlight the prominence in why people tend to work. Richard Ryan and Edward Deci were both professors from the University of Rochester. They co-published the book “Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior,” which centered around a human’s internal and external motivations and their application into certain life aspects (McGregor & Doshi, 2019). One of these aspects that they covered was work. They were able to compile six reasons why people worked, these reasons include:


       1. Potential 

If you are motivated by your potential, you perceive your job as an avenue to elevate your capabilities and achieve your fullest potential. For example, a store cashier would feel inclined to perform well on the job as they believe that they can obtain a higher position as a store manager by working at fulfilling their potential.

       2. Play  

If you are motivated by play, you tend to work because you find the work to be entertaining. For example, a veterinarian who likes taking care of animals would enjoy their work. 

       3. Purpose 

If you are motivated by purpose, there is a strong alignment between the job’s result and your identity. You acknowledge the work’s significance as it resonates with your self-fulfillment. For example, a policy officer may resonate with their job as they value morality and justice. Moreover, a police officer may identify with their intentions to ensure the safety of their citizens. 

     4. Economic Pressure 

If you are motivated by economic pressure, you are driven to work by an external force/ circumstances that relies heavily on money. These economically fueled stressors include paying monthly rent or providing for your family. 


     5. Emotional Pressure 

If you are motivated by emotional pressure, you seem to work as outside forces/ circumstances threaten your identity and well-being. These external forces exert emotional strain, whether it is guilt from your past actions or fear of not having a roof over your head. 


     6. Inertia 

If you are motivated by Inertia, you frankly do not have a clear-cut reason for why you are working. In this case, it is tough to put into words what exactly drives you. 

Some interesting trends have arisen regarding these work motivations. We can arrange these six reasons into two groups. The first group comprises Potential, Play, and Purpose. Research has backed up that possessing any motive in group one can improve your overall performance. The second group consists of Economic Pressure, Emotional Pressure, and Inertia. Conversely, research has showcased that having any motive in group two can hinder your overall performance. 


Jobs in Activism 

With these motivations in mind, I feel that there is a growing demand for activism-related jobs. With the widespread use of technology, connecting people and events globally, we can transcend borders and boundaries. We have also grown in self-awareness towards social issues and become deterministic in making headway against the ordeals around the world.


Now, activism jobs do not have a concrete image of what they entail, unlike the job descriptions of, for example, a teacher or scientist. Activism, in itself, is such a broad and abstract concept. Activism-related jobs and roles within the field do not exist in the same industry or demand the same skill set. The key principle behind both is that activists push through obstacles to facilitate positive change in society. Considering all this, those interested in pursuing roles in activism or related fields need to have a firm resolve for working with a purpose and making a difference in the lives of others. I will be going over a few jobs that employ these activist elements below. 


Social Worker 

Social workers pave the path for their patients when it comes to navigating their everyday lives. They recognize that their patients may endure prominent hurdles, so social workers try to provide their patients with resources to overcome these hurdles. Social workers develop and monitor a patient’s treatment plan, refer patients to suitable community initiatives, conduct research to draw connections between their patients' struggles and overarching social issues, and administrative work. They operate under various categories such as family life, school, mental health, and so forth. 

Social work is a job sector that heavily intertwines with activism. Professionals within social work advocate for change, especially for marginalized groups, and work to increase accessibility for these groups to pre-existing services and resources.


Activism Jobs in Social Work 

  • Child welfare specialist 
  • Mental Health Counselor 
  • Case Management Aide 
  • Behavior Supervisor 



Policy Analyst 

Policy analysts look to implement long-lasting, meaningful policy initiatives. To achieve this goal, they are expected to do the following:

  • Assess the effectiveness of current policy legislation.
  • Conduct extensive research.
  • Consult with third-party stakeholders.
  • Make sure that their policy recommendations align appropriately with their given objectives.


You can specialize in a particular field as a policy analyst. If you are interested in improving healthcare, you can look to be a health policy analyst. If you are interested in improving education, you can look to become an educational policy analyst - and so on.


Policy analysts possess an element of activism when enforcing laws/ recommendations to address social issues impactfully. Little known fact, policy analysis is considered a legal field. Besides the duty to enforce the law and exercise morality in society, legal professions are responsible for protecting the rights of vulnerable citizens and establishing suitable punishments for those who do not comply and put these rights at risk. 


Activism Jobs in Law 

  • Lawyer 
  • Probation Officer 
  • Prosecutor 
  • Government Lobbyist 



A picture is worth 1,000 words. As a photojournalist, one intends to capture the compelling narrative of significant events through taking photographs. On top of that, they need to develop captions for their pictures. This job certainly sounds more accessible than it seems. Depending on a photojournalist’s vision, it may require them to travel to different countries to get a genuine glimpse of these events. Of course, these events can be either good (ex. Presidential inauguration) or bad (ex. A natural disaster). To add on, the combination of visual elements (color, size, proportion) can encapsulate engaging dynamics between notable individuals and vivid emotions. It takes a creative talent to excel at this talent truly. Going back to a previous point about the widespread use of technology, it has disrupted the traditional means of photojournalism through newspapers. Alternatively, social media more quickly distributes these impactful images while sparking a conversation online for thousands who are invited to engage freely. 

Jobs in the media are crucial in activism. They help to record these precious moments from the present. Years from now, we can look back on these archived photographs or written pieces as evidence of past events. More importantly, the archived material can be a learning resource to have citizens reflect on the dual-sided nature of humanity. With the 'good side' captured in positive world events, we can be more appreciative. With the 'bad side' captured, we can reflect and ensure history does not repeat itself from adverse world events. 


 Activism Jobs in Media 

  • Documentary Director 
  • Biographical Writer 
  • News Reporter 
  • Social Media Manager 


Become a Fundraising Director 

A fundraising director generally works within a nonprofit organization (NPO). They work on the financial side as they are responsible for monitoring an NPO’s fundraising patterns. With this responsibility, the director must brainstorm effective fundraising strategies to implement in the local community, create positive relationships with stakeholders (ex. event sponsors, media companies, donors), and prepare crucial documents (ex. Budget statements, press releases).  


Fundraising directors can determine the existence of NPOs. If these NPOs cannot obtain government grants or rather the grants cannot cover all the necessary costs, members of the NPO must secure other forms of income. Their money can be generated from merchandise, memberships fees, and mainly donations. By focusing on the longevity of these NPOs, these organizations can hold community events and initiatives that can spread awareness about social issues alongside assisting disadvantaged groups in the community. After all, any extra revenue made by these NPOs is meant to go back and help the community in any way possible. 


Activism Jobs in Nonprofit 

  • Grant writer 
  • Community Outreach Worker 
  • Administrative Services Manager 
  • Event Manager 


With that, I would like to emphasize that you do not have to wait. You do not have to wait until you achieve an activism-related job to give back to your community. You can give back through volunteering at a local community organization or even donating. Moreover, the amount of information disposable is incredible. We need to utilize this privilege of knowledge to understand the underlying circumstances of social issues, how they vary across countries/ continents, and whether there are pre-existing mechanisms in place to alleviate these social issues. We cannot tackle a problem through naivety and ignorance.  


Though, there is another point I want to make. At the start of this article, I mentioned that there are various motivations for one to work. Even if you are not interested in an activism-related career, I want you to know that you should choose a job that fulfills you. Recall around the start of this article where if you were motivated by either Potential, Play, and Purpose, you will find yourself achieving better results. Many of us have encountered a situation where we were inclined towards a specific job just because a friend/ family member wanted us to pursue it. Despite the job not resonating with us, we tried to go down a specific path out of fear of disappointing our loved ones.   


How are you supposed to do well out of your job if you find it mundane and draining? Sticking to a job you do not enjoy or feel fulfilled by is a regret that will eat away at you. Everyone has their unique aspirations that they want to reach. No ambition is better than another’s. It is relatively based on an individual’s personality and skill. Even if you do not intend for an activism-related job, we all have to eventually advocate for our desired futures in the face of adulthood.   


Work towards your goal, and do not get discouraged. 




Work Cited 

McGregor, L., & Doshi, N. (2015, November 25). How Company Culture Shapes  

Employee Motivation. Retrieved from