Finding a Career with Purpose Part 1: ‘I don’t have the right professional background’

Book Series 1


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’.


Barrier 1: ‘I don’t have the right professional background’

What skills are really required to create social change? You don’t have to be a doctor, lawyer or finance expert to make things happen. Each individual has a unique set of experiences, values, skills and talents which when utilised in the right way, with the right support, can make the world better and more sustainable.

Almost every professional background has something to contribute. Whether as a support or advisory on projects you care about or as the speer-head of a new concept or organisation. It’s time to address the excuses.


Change is scary

You probably know many people who aren’t happy in their work. Or in their life in general. Are you one of them?

You may be struggling to understand how you can contribute, what skills you have to offer others – in addition to the fear of failure, the unknown and lack of control.

Remember – on the journey to a more meaningful career, your professional background and skills are one the strongest assets you have. They are often developed and established in alignment with your personality, a great foundation and sometime a point of return for a plan B.

The triggers to address your career motivation are different for everyone. It could be you are unhappy, frustrated or completely disillusioned with a problem you see again and again. It could be you are completely burnt out, through continued effort with little personal gain. The learning curve might be over, the motivation doesn’t run like it used to.

This is not failure, it’s a sign from yourself that something needs to shift. Where are you at?


Finding meaning through your professional background

If you want to make a difference to your own and others’ environments, you have to take responsibility for the role you play. Every person is defined in some respect by a set of values and interests, which sometimes and sometimes not, they use to create a career that fits. Often those values have been influenced by people around you and you may not completely buy into them.

Then what happens is that your career doesn’t fulfil all of those values. But it does build skills in influencing, professional specialisms, practices and business. That is priceless when it comes to taking control of your future direction.

Look at the story of Safia Minney, in the The Future Makers book. Safia was a communication and advertising professional, disturbed by the lack of support for the cottage industries in Asia and the seemingly forgotten homeless society of Tokyo. Safia used her values and outlook, teamed with her creative and communication skills to create Global Village, an NGO focusing on publicising information about socially and ecologically conscious shopping possibilities and People Tree, a global business that has changed the way consumers and industry view the quality of fair-trade products.


Tests & challenges

Without her professional background, Safia would not have had the skills to create focused change through communication. She used her background to work on entirely new industry and her creativity to overcome the barriers her organisations faced.

You will come across many challenges – where your excuses will run wild and give you the opportunity to fail conscious-free. Family and peers will question your sanity. Financial uncertainty will rock your world much more regularly than you would have hoped.

But these are just bumps on the road. Change only comes through disruption to some degree, whether that be internal or external. With strong values and skills aligned to the work you want to be part of, the personal and societal impact you have will outweigh your fears.


Stop procrastinating

Think about what you have to bring. Then think about what you care about. What is important to you? What, if anything, would you like to change in the world?

Many seemingly too-specific assets are valuable across social innovation projects. Networks, finance knowledge and creativity to name a few.

You can fill gaps in technical knowledge through a number of routes including education, team members and collaborations. An increasing amount of social innovation is done across sectors, industries and functions, therefore experience from multiple perspectives is highly valuable.

Plan accordingly. Where can you start to test your skills? Volunteering, part-time consultancy or even a big move into an established impact organisation with a salaried job.

These are all questions you need to ask yourself and answer honestly. Through that, you can stop using your background as an excuse and use it as an enabler. What will be your story?


Resources to help you

  • For inspiration and to read the stories of Albina Ruiz Rios (From Jungle Girl to Refuse Queen), Chris Eyre (A very different kind of venture capital), Maria Emilia Correa (From critiquing business to taking responsibility), you can purchase The Future Makers book in both English and German.
  • Look out for part 2 of our blog series, ‘I’m too young or too old’ on Tuesday next week.
  • 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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