Posts by Joanna Hafenmayer

Finding a Career with Purpose Part 2: ‘I’m too young, or too old’


Book Series 2


If you are one of the increasing number of people who think about pursuing a career with real impact and benefit to society, beyond money and power – then you will also know that it’s not that easy. You might find you have very good reasons not to pursue a path of values in your work – time, age, money, and background. Or are they just excuses?

Based on hundreds of career profiles and interviews, we worked out the main reasons why people avoid the transition toward a more meaningful career. Here is one of five with reference to our book, The Future Makers.


Excuse 2: ‘I am too young, or too old’

It’s possible to reset or transform the tracks at every stage of your life. Whether you are young and feel you are lacking skills, local support and experience or nearing the end of your career and not sure what you can offer, there is a place for you in creating impact through your work.

Age does not define what we can do or achieve in life, only your attitude and clarity of vision and thought.


Too young?

You have invested in your studies or vocational training and have high hopes for the future. That means earning enough money not only to live, but to show you made the right choices and meet the expectations of your family, friends and peer group – and yourself.

It’s a simple path. For example, taking the corporate route to ensure you have enough strength in your CV or resume and enough money to live the life your friends do.

The problem comes with dissatisfaction. If you already believe strongly in the impact you want to make in the world, can this be achieved through traditional career routes? You’ll have nothing to fall back on. Maybe the people who surround you think you are a dreamer – unrealistic and unable to stick to a sensible plan.

This doesn’t need to hold you back from defining an alternative career that meets your personal values and motivations to have impact. Take Mia Hanak. An art history major with a strong affinity to the environment and now an entrepreneur. Mia founded Millennium Art and the Natural World Museum, following an extended period of travel after her studies.

She saw how our global, growth-driven society impacted on every corner of the globe. She didn’t have a background in environmental science, but she did have a wealth of knowledge and interest in the arts. Mia focused on solutions, not causes and looked at ways to use her passions to create interest in the environment from a different perspective: art. Solutions are a strength of the young.

Creating impact and building relationships can still be tricky. You need to be credible. You don’t have the experience to draw on and the barriers seem much higher than when you have established networks and are already very clear on what you can offer.

Then there are the thoughts of others who have supported you. Mia’s family support her, but often ask when she will settle down. It doesn’t matter. She continues to create impact through her work and raise authentic awareness of environmental issues.

Some might say, only the young have that gift of that all-determined faith in their cause and their adaptable and fast-developing abilities. What are yours?


Too old?

Many would say that Dr V might want to enjoy the fruits of his labour a little. Why work on a difficult or a lost cause, when you could be enjoying your retirement – which you worked hard for your whole life? In his own words, ‘What does retirement even mean?’.

People might say that you’re in crisis. Lost. Not sure where to go or what to do next. You need to learn to enjoy your freedom and stop finding distractions to focus on.

But this thinking isn’t for everyone. When you have a wealth of experience, skills and life behind you, you are probably one of the best-placed people to look at an existing situation and see clearly how it needs to change.

Dr V took on a challenge in his later life. An Ophthalmologist and a visionary, he started to use his background to create social change at the age of 58. He saw the suffering all around him in India, people without access to his skills to prevent blindness. Why do 50 million people have to be blind?

He saw retirement only as an opportunity. To make a new life for himself, and for others. He created the Aravind-Hospital in 1976, using his close networks of family and friends who he had supported in their professional growth, to now support his. He didn’t have money, so he re-mortgaged his house. He treats two-thirds of his patients for free to prevent unnecessary blindness.

His challenges were logistical, rather than personal. He was clever enough to use his vision and credibility to inspire his close family and networks. Where are you credible? Where can you build on that? Do you want a relaxing life, or a change to rejuvenate yourself and give something back through creating a whole new chapter?


Stop procrastinating

Young people excel at action, innovation and courage. Older people bring in valuable networks and a healthy distance to outcomes.

Both have a lot to offer. Think about where you are now, and what you have done. Or what you want to do. What skills and networks exist? What passions do you have? What’s your character – therefore what really matters to you? What’s your vision for the rest of your life?

Map this against what you need to make your vision become real. Not what you haven’t got, but what you have got. Then surround yourself with people who not only support your vision, but can help you make it happen. Whether that be the younger and more energetic, action-orientated, or the older, more experienced people with the right networks.

The journey is the destination, in the words of Karen Tse. On both sides, it’s just a new adventure. The fact you even set out to create impact through your work is testament to your strength of character and your determination and, therefore, your success.

What do you want to be known for? Start the journey now.


Resources to help you

  • For more inspiration and to read the stories of Vicky Colbert de Arboleda (Education, not drugs) and Isaac Shongwe (A lost child of the slums and an African leader). You can purchase The Future Makers book in both English and German.
  • Read part 1 ‘I don’t have the right professional background’ and look out for part 3 of our blog series: ‘I’m not financially secure’ week commencing 17th November.
  • Sign up for our workshop ‘Career Confidence: Business Model You’ in Zurich on 29. November (in German) to explore your values and skills and plan your meaningful career,  or contact us for one to one consultation on how you can create a more meaningful career
  • Visit the Impact Hub Network – a global network of collaborators focused on making a positive impact in the world.
  • Read about Social Intraprenuership to learn more about how to create social value from inside your current or future organisation.
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Social Intrapreneurship: Who needs to be on board to make it thrive?

Joanna Hafenmayer, MyImpact; Stefan Maard, Novozymes, Gib Bulloch, Accenture Development Partnerships; Olivier Fruchaud, Ashoka Switzerland

Impact HUB Geneva, Summer 2014…

… And 70 highly engaged individuals were gathered to better understand what Social Intrapreneurship is and what role they have to play.

The term is becoming more and more familiar in business circles, education and social innovation.  But is it just thrown around?  What does it mean in practice and reality?

To help embed thinking, active intrapreneurs shared first-hand experience, advising aspiring ones and HR and CSR/Sustainability professionals on how to best go forward and make social intrapreneurship core to business-done-well. Speakers included:

–       Gib Bulloch, Executive Director, Accenture Development Partnerships, intrapreneur at Accenture, globally active thought leader on Intrapreneurship and the changing role of business.

–       Joanna Hafenmayer, Managing Director, MyImpact, former intrapreneur at Microsoft, Aspen First Movers Fellow, coach and expert on meaningful careers, fostering Impact Intrapreneurship out of Switzerland and beyond on Tools and opportunities for impact intrapreneurs

–       Stefan Maard, intrapreneur from Novozymes, founder of Cleanstar Mozambique.

You can see some pictures from the session here.


An individual is great, but we need an eco-system

What is becoming very clear is that, as great as an individual can be, it is a whole “ecosystem” that really makes success on a greater scale possible.

It all starts with a  long-term outlook  or, in fact, with another external trigger such as change in technology or regulation, increased pressure on sustainability issues, new demands or competitors, interest in moving beyond traditional markets,….

Then an intrapreneur comes into play with a set of individual characteristics such as tenacity, creativity and ability to deal with ambiguity.

Only when such an individual is supported by an enabling internal environment such as executive godfathers, development opportunities, resources and trust can his venture thrive. Read more about this here.

External partners such as field-experienced advisors, co-founders of a new venture or even co-creators will play a major role in driving the initial intrapreneurial idea, to become an innovation within the company that will have a lasting impact.  Not only on the business, but on society and on all individuals involved in the process.



Who needs to be on board for Intrapreneurs to thrive Source: Heiko Spitzeck – Fundação Dom Cabral


A great example of this type of eco-system was highlighted by Gib Bulloch during his journey as an intrapreneur, heading Accenture Development Partnerships. After 10 years of existence, Accenture Development Partnerships has delivered 640+ projects with 140+ organisations – engaging 1,000+ employees from Accenture in delivering consulting services for the international development sector.

Before that happened, there was an important first step – gathering of a team of individuals with different mind-sets who were motivated by the same goal. Then, engaging the support of top executives within the company to let the idea progress and demonstrate the overall benefits – both in terms of social impact and positive outcomes for the hosting company.

Finally, securing the inputs of external partners – in this particular case, executives from leading international development organizations and private corporations – who helped Accenture Development Partnerships to refine its concept and relevance to their activities.


The future of social intrapreneurs

The diverse participants of the Geneva “Coming out” demonstrated in reality the various roles of the eco-system. This created the perfect opportunity to define specific actions to help foster intrapreneurs acting out of Switzerland.  And indeed the world.

  • Address the culture of complaining
  • Teach and foster design thinking as a business approach
  • Find the right people to influence internally and externally
  • Collaborate and share skills and experiences to solve problems
  • Above all, create strong business cases as core to any successful intrapreneurial venture

The participants felt that the opportunities for co-creation for organizations are necessary and these opportunities are here today, if the right systems are in place to maximise those opportunities.


The future of business?

Social intrapreneurs prototype the way business can be done in the 21st century – with collaboration, empathy and design thinking – and the way real careers can be lived out – combining performance and a sense of meaning.

But helping them develop ‘shared value’ innovations aligning business strategy with societal needs is a shared responsibility. This is the landscape that our speakers were trying to build through tools, programmes and incubators in order to help both intrapreneurial individuals and corporate leaders to see the potential.  The stage is clearly open to a wider group of key supporters to define the future of business with social impact, not just adapt it out of necessity.


This post was made possible with a contribution from Lionel Bodin, a senior manager from Accenture Development Partnerships. He drives Accenture’s Social Intrapreneurship initiative supporting the League of Intrapreneurs, the Intrapreneur Labs and helping intrapreneurs within corporations to incubate and accelerate their ideas.

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