Top tips to develop a career with a purpose – in a social enterprise

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Written by Tom Rippin on 6 May 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

Tom Rippin provides 11 tips for professionals wanting to develop their careers within a social enterprise

Would you like a career with a purpose - a career that makes a positive difference to 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. It’s never too late in your career to make the change.

Here are 11 tips for professionals wanting to develop their careers within a social enterprise:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Talk to friends and colleagues. 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.

 

  1. Beware passion paralysis. You often hear “follow your passion”, but many people don’t know what their “passion” is and spend (waste...) a huge amount of time trying to figure it out. Get things moving by collecting some experiences about what you do and don’t enjoy – e.g. through events, volunteering, or taking a sabbatical to explore an area of interest in more detail.

 

  1. Think beyond the cause. It’s tempting to focus on the cause you’re interested in but ignore all the other aspects of a role or organisation that shape the experience. For example, the size or stage of the organisation, whether they work directly with the people that they are set up to benefit, the business model and the team and culture.

 

  1. Find your tribe. It can be incredibly helpful to find other people who are going through the same process to support you as you make your own transition. By exploring other networks you can often find people who share your interests or values or are just going through a similar journey to you, and can signpost you to other things you might be interested in.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Be real. When applying for roles make sure you understand the context of the organisation you are applying to and tailor your application for each role. For example, using language appropriate to the sector. Write clearly and in simple, jargon-free language about who you are and why you are interested in the role and the organisation.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Don’t find yourself, build yourself. You might not find the one role that meets all the criteria of your dream job immediately. It can be helpful to break a transition into phases, for example initially switching sectors before switching functional role.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

About the author

Tom Rippin is founder of On Purpose

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