By TOM RIPPIN AND DOMINIC JONES, ON PURPOSE
Would you like a career with a purpose? A career that makes a positive difference in the world?
Making the move to work within a social enterprise, a company that is using business to create a social or environmental benefit, is now easier than ever.
On Purpose matches organisations that are using business for good with talented professionals who want something more fulfilling and meaningful from their career.
For example, On Purpose helped Daniel Bhugon, who originally worked in the city where he used his knowledge of technology and maths to design complicated derivatives products for banks to sell. But something was missing. So he applied for an On Purpose paid placement and worked with the youth social enterprise Catch 22 helping them design a programme using video games and coding to motivate pupils to stay engaged in school.
In order to solve many of society’s biggest challenges we need to change the way that we do business, social enterprises offer a promising route to doing this, but they need brilliant people to help them expand the impact that they have.
If you’d like to develop your career within a social enterprise, here is some advice:
- Invest the time to think about how and why you want to make this change. If you’re feeling frustrated in your current role, it’s often worth stopping to identify exactly what is lacking. People who want to work in social enterprise often enjoy (and are good at) their current job, but feel that they would find greater motivation in work that has a social or environmental benefit.
- Talk to friends and colleagues. It’s often a good idea to talk to people, whether this is your colleagues or friends; by letting people know that you want to change they will be able to help. And the more specific you can be about what you are looking for the more easily they’ll be able to help you.
- Beware passion paralysis. You often hear the phrase “follow your passion”, when contemplating a career change. Many people don’t know what their “passion” is, and spend (waste…) a huge amount of time trying to figure it out. To get things moving you need to start collecting some experiences about what you do and don’t enjoy, and to do this you need to get out there and try a lot of new things. This might be through events, volunteering, or taking a sabbatical to explore an area of interest in more detail.
- Think beyond the cause. It’s tempting when approaching the social enterprise space to spend a lot of time thinking about the cause you might be interested in (e.g. homelessness, the environment, international development) but ignore all the other aspects of a role or organisation that shape the experience of a role. These might include the size or stage of the organisation, whether they work directly with the people that they are set up to benefit, the business model (commercial, social enterprise, charity) and the team and culture.
- Find your tribe. It can be incredibly helpful to find other people who are going through the same process (or who have recently been through it) to support you as you make your own transition. By exploring other networks you can often find groups or people that share your interests or values or even are just going through a similar journey to you, and can signpost you to other things you might be interested in.
- Focus on your intrinsics. Social enterprise is an emerging space, and often there will be few people who have the exact skills and experience profiles needed for a role. Focus on communicating examples of your intrinsic skills (e.g. relationship building, problem solving), as well as transferable aspects of your technical skills. For example you may have done a lot of financial analysis, which could be applied to better understanding social impact data.
- Be real. When applying for roles make sure you understand the context of the organisation you are applying for, and tailor your application for each role. This might mean using language appropriate to the sector, for example a charity might talk about making a surplus rather than a profit. Write clearly and in simple, jargon free language about who you are and why you are interested in the role and the organisation. You should also be clear about why you want to move into the social enterprise space.
- Never talk about “giving back”. People who have spent their whole careers in this world will automatically think you shouldn’t have “taken away” in the first place.
- Don’t find yourself, build yourself. You might not find the one role that meets all the criteria of your dream job immediately. Depending on the career switch you are making it can be helpful to break a transition into phases, for example initially switching sectors before switching functional role (so being a finance person in a social enterprise, and then moving to a more operational role in a social enterprise).
- Baptism of fire. When you have changed roles, make sure you ask all the stupid questions early on while people will be forgiving! It’s also worth attending as many events, lunches and coffees in the first month as possible to fully submerge yourself in your new role. You can then scale back from here to a more manageable level, keeping just those that you find most valuable.
- It’s a spiral. Arguably you’re never done with this process. Take time to evaluate your career at regular points (it can help to have a coach to do this with) and proactively plan ways to ensure that you continue to develop yourself professionally.
The On Purpose Associate Programme is full time and based in London. Associates work in their placements 4.5 days a week and spend Friday afternoon at training. Associates are paid £21,000 for the year, which is a stipend for a year of training and development.
To apply see: www.onpurpose.uk.com
On Purpose is a social enterprise that is dedicated to helping talented professionals transition into a career that matters by providing them with the experience, knowledge and networks that they need. The aim in turn is to help social enterprise become more successful by attracting top quality managers and professionals.