Making a Career Change That’s Also a Change for Good
The biggest revelation I’ve ever had about work didn’t happen with a career coach or at a fancy retreat in the woods. Or, for that matter, even at work. My career “ah-ha” moment happened in the middle of my living room while I was pregnant with my second child.
At the time, I had a moment of introspection that brought my priorities into clear focus. I wanted work that would make a difference for my children’s generation, that would better serve humanity.
For many, this introspection is happening as we’re going through unprecedented social, political, and economic unrest in 2020. What’s really important — be it a cause or community or children — is coming into far sharper focus for all of us. Interestingly, in a Udemy survey, we found that 62% of employees would take a pay cut to work for a company with a compatible mission, a figure that jumps to 78% for millennials.
As I personally searched for (and successfully found) more purposeful work aligned with my passion for lifelong learning, I discovered a few essential guiding principles that may help anyone else in search of a career more aligned with their beliefs.
Mission-driven work doesn’t always require self-sacrifice
Among the biggest myths about mission-driven companies is that it comes with a necessary pay cut or drastic shift in everyday life. Thirty years ago, devoting your life to a greater cause might have only meant a few different options, but today, companies around the world are focused on making change for good, not just profit. Fortune Magazine recently recognized some of the companies making a global impact in their 2020 Change the World issue.
Fortune’s list showcases for-profit companies improving the human condition and finding innovative ways to address important social or environmental challenges. These companies are a great place to look when searching for a purposeful career that won’t necessarily come with an extreme pay cut.
When job hunting, make your intentions clear
When looking for mission-driven work, you may feel reticent to be upfront about your intentions. In my experience, some individuals worry that it may make them look picky or difficult. Let that reticence go. It’s not only okay, but it’s a plus to be forthright with recruiters and your network that you’re hunting for a job that does good in the world. As I’ve found, being open and seeking guidance from those around you can open up a slew of different opportunities that may not have otherwise been apparent.
Look beyond the obvious mission-driven companies
A wonderful trend has begun to unfold in the last decade or two. Companies that may appear to be hyper-transactional at first glance without any type of mission-driven product have actually taken it upon themselves to create a commitment to greater change. Some organizations have dedicated social impact teams looking for creative ways to share their product for good, and others have brought in social impact partners.
Slack is a prime example of an organization also dedicated to social impact. While the organization’s product is a corporate messaging tool, a significant part of their corporate culture is rooted in making a positive difference through their Slack for Good initiatives.
Another example: My sister recently took a job with a financial wellness company. While her organization doesn’t appear to be particularly mission-driven on the surface, its core mission is dedicated to helping people make smart financial decisions to ensure they maintain financial wellness, especially during turbulent and uncertain times like now.
Don’t be afraid to ask about a company’s mission
When you’re interviewing for a position, don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s mission and how it manifests throughout the culture. Some companies make a point of asking every job candidate about their core values to ensure they would be a good fit. At Udemy, even if we fall in love with a candidate’s background, it’s not a match unless they’re dedicated to improving lives through learning — our core mission.
Remember: It’s not just you prioritizing making a difference. Many employers are looking to step up to this moment in history when there are so many pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. It also makes good business sense. Accenture research found that 63% of global consumers prefer to purchase from purpose-driven companies and avoid those that aren’t.
If you unequivocally let your interviewer know what you’re looking for during your job interview, one of two things will happen. You will either find out that a positive mission is not a priority for them, and you can strike that company from your list. Or, you will discover that this organization has been looking for someone just like you who will bring the skills and experience they need to make a greater impact.
A version of this article was originally published in Forbes on October 29, 2020.