Ever wanted to work in a job at the intersection of passion and purpose? If yes, you’re not alone. If you don’t know how to do it, you’re not alone, either – sometimes deciding how to make a change is just as
challenging as figuring out what you want to do.
Enter Work on Purpose, an Echoing Green publication that profiles five social change makers and their journeys to craft careers with meaningful impact. While the profiles may be interesting to students of social entrepreneurship at any age; they are designed for use by emerging professionals.
The secret to success recommended by authors Lara Galinsky and Kelly Nuxoll is a simple formula: Look into your heart to clarify your passion and interests, chart a plan with your head and then hustle to make it happen. Or to keep it simple: heart, head, hustle.
In case you have trouble visualizing how the format works in action, the book includes case studies of five Echoing Green fellows – how they found their passion, how they found a way to incorporate their interests into their book, and the support and resources they were able to find to fulfill their goals. It’s a topic the authors know well: Echoing Green regularly invests in and supports emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions. Since 1987, Echoing Green has invested nearly $30 million in seed funding to almost 500 social entrepreneurs and their innovative organizations, including Teach for America, City Year, and SKS Microfinance.
I interviewed one of the Echoing Green fellows profiled in Work on Purpose.
Socheata Poeuv is the founder and chief executive of Khmer Legacies, a nonprofit organization in New Haven that documents the Cambodian genocide through videotaped testimonies. Socheata is a visiting fellow at the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University, and was born in Thailand after her family fled Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge.
I won’t give away Socheata’s own journey and her experience of heart, head and hustle – you really should read this book – but here’s a window into her experience:
Have you ever felt any pressure not to pursue your passion?
Absolutely. That’s like asking me “are you the daughter of Asian parents?” My mother’s dream for me was to be a dentist because she has a nice dentist. She loves him.
To some degree, my parents still don’t understand what I do. That I don’t work for a company. That I don’t make a product. The idea that I can find support for my work through individuals who generously donate their money to support to social missions. That whole idea is foreign to my parents.
How would you recommend getting started to someone who wants to pursue a passion?
Take a look at the problems in the world that matter to you—what emotionally connects with you? What do you think about a lot? What do you read about in books, magazines, articles?
Think about the skills and areas of expertise that you bring to bear. Even if you don’t know what skills you have to offer, that will become clear over time. For me, I was looking for the intersection of what mattered and where my skills were—that helped me identify the problems to solve.
Is there anything not in the book that you think people need to know?
There are a lot of struggles in each and every one of our stories. There’s a lot of uncertainty. And a lot of doubt sometimes. We wonder “How can we measure the impact of what we are doing? How can we see the tangible result of what we are doing?” We can’t measure our performance on a balance sheet. I think when you work for or create an organization that takes on a social problem, you take on a huge sense of responsibility that often feels greater than you might experience in the corporate world.
The question of “am I doing enough?” is endemic in the world of social entrepreneurship. Is what I am doing actually making a difference, and how do I know that?
Any actionable piece of advice?
The book focuses on the founders of social entrepreneurs, you see the cowboys – the people who started organizations. But there is a community that exists underneath all of these organizations and that supports their efforts. The thing to ask yourself is not “How do I start an organization?” but “How can I help? How can I get active in something I care about?” It’s not about starting a new career path; it’s about aligning your values with how you spend your time.
How can I converge my values with how I spend my time? That is the bottom line of the book; it’s not about how to start something new. It is about how to contribute.
Work on Purpose is available through Amazon beginning April 19, 2011