Working from home has made some employees realize that the only thing they liked about their job was socializing with their colleagues. As happened to millions of people around the world, the pandemic encouraged Joe Flynn to rethink his career.
This man from Worcestershire, England, had spent the last ten of his 34 years selling mortgages, but the quarantines of the last few months led him to reevaluate what he wanted to do with his life. “The buy-to-let mortgage industry was not something I thought I wanted to do, but it was a good career with strong personal development”, he says.
But over time his priorities changed: “I realized that I wanted a career where I felt I could make a difference in something that mattered to me”. Buoyed by previous experiences volunteering, Flynn found the CharityJob website, which lists job openings in the philanthropic sector. There a position in the Vegan Society caught his attention. “It was perfect for someone who had been vegan for the last 8 years”, he affirms.
Now, 3 months into his new managerial position, he is enthusiastic about his employer. “Everyone puts passion there and he wants to make the organization move forward. He is really motivating».
However, he admits that taking a “significant pay cut” made him question whether he was taking the right step. “But I thought about what my ethics are and what I wanted to do”, he adds. “I thought I would forever regret missing out on the opportunity. Job satisfaction is invaluable when dealing with an organization where morals and ethics match your own”.
Positive social impact
In a world that is increasingly attentive to climate change, sustainability and equality, the youngest especially tend to seek a career in which they have a positive social impact. Add the pandemic to the mix and the trend toward career pursuits with purpose accelerates; 7 out of 10 people said that the coronavirus had caused them to reconsider their career path, according to a report by Escape the City, an organization dedicated to helping people who want to leave the corporate world. The study also revealed that 89% of those surveyed “now want a career with meaning, a strong purpose”. The data contrasts with 71% of the pre-Covid world.
Skye Robertson, head of Escape the city, says the pandemic has changed what people want for her career. “It has been a period of reflection for people to think about their lives and their work and what really matters to them”, she says. “People are flocking to the races with a purpose.” Robertson adds that working from home since March 2020 has meant that for many the social aspect that kept them connected to their jobs has been noticeably weakened.
Habiba Islam is a career consultant at 80,000 hours, a non-profit organization that provides resources for individuals to have the greatest possible social impact during their professional lives. “For most, their career is the main avenue to making a positive impact”, she explains. “For most, the pandemic and the changes it brought to the world of work pushed people to think about their career choice and what they wanted to do. But there were other factors at play. The other aspect is that of facing a global catastrophe. That turns people’s attention to bigger world problems, to think that maybe they could be working on preventing the next Covid”.
YasminaKone, 27, was recruiting graduates at a law firm when the pandemic hit. “The pandemic was an interesting time”, she says. “I had a lot of time to sit behind a screen, which made me focus on who was benefiting from my work and how I was using my skills. There was a lot of suffering during the pandemic. I began to realize that I wanted to have a more direct effect on vulnerable communities.”
So in May 2021, Kone quit her job to start as a manager at Beam, a social project that helps homeless people find jobs. She says that her work was a source of motivation at a time when the world seemed “a dark place… now I am changing people’s lives”.
Kone acknowledges that she agreed to lower her salary to fill the position, but she claims that she was worth it. “Every day I can help people. That’s motivation, plus there are unlimited vacations and sharing options”.
The impact of the “B corps”
Robertson insists that it is possible to switch to a job with a greater social purpose without having to see your salary reduced. “We have heard many times that there is a ‘moral tax’ with huge pay cuts or that you have to work until exhaustion in a charity, but that does not happen anymore”, says Robertson.
He points to the rise of so-called “B Corps” businesses, firms of all sizes that are committed to finding a balance between profit and service, and to considering the impact of their activity on the community and the environment. “There are now hundreds of B corps offering careers with a purpose”.
For those who are rethinking their career, Islam recommends analyzing what social problems matter most to them and what their specific skills are. “For example, maybe you can work in research to contribute to advances in a certain field, or work in government agencies in a charity that is effective”, he explains. “There is a range of different jobs, from communication to leadership, to entrepreneurship and launching a charity. Think about what a satisfying, high-impact career can mean to you. Each one has different priorities, depending on where you are, your economic situation, or personal aspects”.
Rachel Abraham adds that “after such a turbulent year in 2020” she began to reflect on what she feels is “important” in her life. A former marketing employee, the 27-year-old from Liverpool says: “I wanted to put my skills into a cause with a higher moral sense. I knew I wanted to work for a charity that prioritizes and advocates for mental well-being, especially for young people”.
So in August 2020 she joined Iheart, an NGO dedicated to educating children about mental health, as a marketing manager. “When you work for an NGO, the people are much more friendly and the daily exchanges are satisfying, especially when you get the response from the children who now feel much more confident,” she says. For Abraham that is immediate professional satisfaction. “You are not putting money in the pocket of an unknown person. It makes more sense”.