Finding a career with purpose part 5: ‘What will others think of me?’


Book Series 5


There are many people living and working in environments every day, where they are exposed to situations and opportunities to create more sustainable and beneficial outcomes for themselves, their families and communities.

In this series of five blog posts, taken from our book ‘The Future Makers’, we look at the key excuses the many social innovators who we interviewed from across the world faced on their journey to creating a better world.

You can find out more about The Future Makers also on our online portal, where we have continued to seek out inspirational social entrepreneurs and tell their stories.


Excuse 5: ‘What will others think of me?’

You know what you want to do, but do the people who surround you understand? Taking a different route to career satisfaction to meet your own passions and values can leave other people confused and you feeling misunderstood.

It takes a lot of self-confidence and resilience to pursue a path that sits outside others’ ideas of ‘normal’. Social values and structures have been created around a common goal of fitting in for centuries and change only comes through stepping outside of some of those paradigms and systems designed to provide structure and order in an otherwise chaotic world.

Can you turn around sceptical friends, family and colleagues to at least value your determination and self-worth, or do you have to pursue a lonely path? The answer may be unclear until you actually set out on this new journey. What you will find, is that the people who share similar values or belief in your abilities will more likely come along with you than not.


And you care because?

‘Even if it kills me tomorrow, there’s nothing better that I can do with my life’

Says Roma Debabrata, founder of STOP – an organisation dedicated to stopping the tracking and oppression of children and women in India. Roma faced years of misunderstanding. On the path to becoming a prima ballerina, she was the source of her family’s pride. At aged 21, Roma gave that up. She couldn’t see how she could be fulfilled dancing when she was surrounded by wretched dwellings and omnipresent hunger. Why millions had to suffer, as she indulged in a tiny elite.

Her parents were not of the same mindset. She decided to move away and work as an instructor at the University of Delhi – to help students recognise the contradictions that existed in their society – and took part in social projects. For years her family didn’t understand her choices. That didn’t change anything for Roma, she met her future husband and married into a family who supported her ideals. This backing made all of the difference and gave Roma the courage to pursue her passions.

After translating the testimony of a 14-year old abuse victim, sold by her parents at 10 years of age to a ‘better life’. Roma was key in ensuring the girl’s testimony wasn’t falsified – she gave her a voice. During the court case, Roma was attacked by a poison filled needle, meant for the girl. Left partially paralysed and in hospital, she realised that she knew exactly what she woke up for every day. She knew she couldn’t change the world, but she knew she wanted to make the lives of disadvantaged women better.

She still does that today. Putting herself in often dangerous situations and using her university income, through STOP Roma has freed countless women and helped them move on with their lives. The risk and the choices don’t make sense to others. But they do make sense to Roma.


Stop procrastinating

If you move in circles with like-minded people, you will always find support. This doesn’t mean you have to uproot your life as you know it, but you do need to see the value in expanding your world, to meet the needs of every part of yourself.

You may lose some people along the way, but you will always gain more. People change and evolve in any situation through life. When you are being true to yourself, you will attract the ones you really need.

Sit down and speak to the people that surround you. Share your ideas and thoughts about what you might want to do. If they do not understand, don’t shut them down. Critical thinking is always useful. The most important thing is to explain your motivations and reasons clearly, along with the fact you would like and will need their support. Then they can choose how they can support you based on the reality of your thinking, not the perception.

Being honest with yourself is the first and most important step, but being honest with your closest relationships is crucial. See where you stand, don’t judge where you might, then act on that in the way that meets your needs and values their opinion. An opinion is only an opinion, after all.


No more excuses

So whether you think you are too young, too old, not financially stable, don’t have the right professional background, are already super-successful or you care far too much about what people think – you can make a difference.

At the beginning of this series, we summarised the 5 main excuses. Which applies to you?

If you have the feeling that you can do more with your life and you care more about the world than generating profit or meeting the expectations of your family and social circle, stop making excuses.

Contact us to map where you can offer more. Find the excuse that applies to you and work through the actions to see where you fit. More than all of that, be true to yourself and your values.

Nothing is impossible.


Resources to help you


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Finding a career with purpose part 4: ‘I’m already successful with what I am doing’


Book Series 4


There are many people living and working in environments every day, where they are exposed to situations and opportunities to create more sustainable and beneficial outcomes for themselves, their families and communities.

In this series of five blog posts, taken from our book ‘The Future Makers’, we look at the key excuses the many social innovators who we interviewed from across the world faced on their journey to creating a better world.

You can find out more about The Future Makers also on our online portal, where we have continued to seek out inspirational social entrepreneurs and tell their stories.


Excuse 4: ‘I am already successful with what I am doing’

You’ve made it. Whether you come from a background of privilege or poverty, your skills, talents and determination to succeed have served you well.

There are many successful people in the world – defined by their accomplishments in their professional or socially influential fields. That is all well and good, but what if that success doesn’t feel like it should? The recognition and material possessions are not the only outcomes you seek to reach in your life?

You can reach that point at 30 as a successful entrepreneur, or aged 65 as an established professional where that thought that always played at the back of your mind becomes stronger: it’s just not enough.

Don’t ignore it. Creating change for the good of others and your own future generations needs people like you. People who know how to make things happen and often have the financial means to dedicate the time and effort to solve real issues and actively shape the future. Are you one of those people? Read on.


Making more of your success

Why would you bother making a change in your life now? Because your values and your passions lie beyond what you have already achieved.

Take Erin Keown Ganju. Growing up in a successful family on the west coast of the USA, Erin developed a passion for languages, culture and business which led her to a successful career in investment banking then entrepreneurship. And all that came with that.

At barely 30 years old and in the hub of the Silicon Valley, following an insightful career at Goldman Sachs and Unilever, Erin recognised the power and influence of private business on the lives and cultures of many people worldwide. But how could this be leveraged? Who would be the facilitator that not only cared enough, but had the knowledge and experience to use that influence well?

She wanted more than a life where decisions were driven by pace and profit and were often unconscious due to the pressure of the business environment. She wanted a better world for her own children. So she decided to start a new chapter. She teamed up with a fellow professional and shared stories – they had similar attitudes and questions born out of the world they had occupied for so long.

Together, they embarked on a journey to lower the statistic of 120 million children worldwide who were not able to attend elementary school. They had the experience of how to run successful organisations and had worked across the world extensively, understanding markets and cultures. ‘Room to Read’ was created in 2001 to found schools and bilingual libraries across the world, working closely with the local communities Erin had come to understand in her previous work.

They have opened over 3,600 libraries, built over 280 schools and improved the lives of over 1.2 million children across Asia and Africa.


Stop procrastinating

The work you do now serves as part of your journey to create change in the future. Every experience you have is a building block for the next and a foundation for future success.

What have you achieved so far? And how could you use that in an alternative way to create change? Do you have an understanding of how to interact with diverse groups of people to drive projects, know how to influence governmental change or see how to raise finance to fund impact projects?

Look at your background and map your skills and achievements. Then map your values and your passions against it. Use that to see the opportunities where you can add value and create impact. Go beyond the obvious – talk to people working in the impact space and see what interests you the most.

People might not understand why you would make your life more difficult, but these are all of the reasons that you should. The challenge of succeeding is never an easy path – it always took hard work and effort on your part. The difference is, you won’t be doing it for generating revenue for investors and shareholders, but to change the lives of others and satisfy your personal values and goals.

That is true success.


Resources to help you

  • For more inspiration and to read the stories of David Bussau (The economy of ‘enough’), Ines Sanguinetti (The wake-up call: uniting passions), Ashok Khosla (The power of temptation) and Jordan Kassalow (Using your own potential) . You can purchase The Future Makers book in both English and German.
  • Read part 1 ‘I don’t have the right professional background’, part 2 ‘I’m too young, or too old’, part 3, ‘I’m not financially secure’ and look out for part 5 of our blog series: ‘What will others think of me?’ next week.
  • Sign up for our next workshop ‘Career Confidence: Business Model You’ to explore your values and skills and plan your meaningful career (register your enquiry here for the next date),  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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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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Entrepreneur or intrapreneur? Where to go for an impactful career


Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.


As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.


Steve Jobs (Stanford Commencement Address)

For more and more talented professionals who are predestined for a what-used-to-be stellar career, earning money and rising up the career ladder is not enough anymore. They are looking to change something in the world through their job. They want (or need) a career with purpose, with impact, with meaning.

This does not mean that money and professional development are not important. On the contrary, we all want to take care of our families and be able to enjoy the opportunities of our time. However, shouldn’t it be possible to combine the different factors that makes us happy?

For many entrepreneurial individuals working in large organisations, the question “Should I stay or should I go?” often arises. Entrepreneur or intrapreneur? Yes, you do need that entrepreneurial spirit in a culture in which we are encouraged to choose a career based on its ability to provide security and financial stability rather than opportunity for alignment with our passions and dreams.


infographic 2


The prospect of finding fulfilling work is believed to be relegated to the lucky few born with extraordinary talent, wealth or an unusual drive to succeed. This could not be further from the truth. Meaningful work is not just possible, in our opinion it is your birth right.

While following your heart and not settling until you find “your love”, both entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship will give you opportunities to find meaning and purpose, to create positive impact and to innovate. Here are some thoughts and hints around both options.



As an entrepreneur you will value autonomy and speed, making fast decisions and not owing anyone an explanation.

As an intrapreneur, you will enjoy to access to resources that that organisation you work for can offer and if you find that one great idea, scaling it through the massive “organism” can be mind blowing. Which perspective attracts you more at the moment?


Key Challenges

In either option, there will be challenges to overcome. As an entrepreneur there will be no structure, support not even a team in the beginning.

In a large organisation, bureaucracy and over-engineered processes and passive individuals can cause great dreams to never become true. What can you deal with better?


Lever of Innovation

As an entrepreneur you will very likely be delivering your vision and impact very directly. As an intrapreneur you will rather be working the lever – navigating a complex system and people to deliver a common goal that you may even seldom see up close. How direct to you want to/can you be?

Whatever path you take, keep exploring, listen to stories and surprise yourself with courage, it will always be worth it.


View our full infographic here for more information on the pathways and preference.

If you live in Switzerland, we are holding a workshop on your Options for a Meaningful Career at Impact Hub Zurich on 17. September, 19:00-21:00. Sign up here.


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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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