Work on Purpose: How to create a meaningful career
The social entrepreneurship movement is full of stories about changemakers and the organizations that they have started, or the work they have done to impact society. While these stories are great examples of our solutions-oriented sector, they tend to highlight the end result of an idea or mission, rather than the process or impetus for arriving there. It’s less often that we hear the stories of a changemaker’s beginning, and the steps they took along the way to pursue a life and career with impact. Having worked with over 500 social entrepreneurs and visionaries since 1987 to help fund, launch, and support organizations that drive social change, Echoing Green recognized the gap in resources for those of the younger generation who wanted to create a career with purpose.
As a pioneer in the social entrepreneurship field, Echoing Green was also uniquely positioned to fill this gap by harnessing the stories of their own community of changemakers and their career trajectories. The result is a new book called Work on Purpose, which came out in bookstores this week. Work on Purpose is Echoing Green’s second book on the topic of social change careers. The first, Be Bold, was published in 2006, and focused on what it takes to create a career with impact. In the follow-up to Be Bold, Echoing Green is focused on the millennial generation and providing them with the guidance and inspiration needed to develop career paths with purpose.
“We targeted this book to those who are in the early stages of their careers because we believe that our society does not provide this population enough resources for the career-pathing process in the social change sector,” says Lara Galinsky, senior vice president of Echoing Green and co-author of Work on Purpose. The book’s tagline is: “I want a meaningful career – not just a job. But how do I get there?” Work on Purpose was written to be the road map for how individuals can start on the path towards purpose. It accomplishes this by telling the stories of five past Echoing Green fellows on their journey towards figuring out their best and highest purpose. Each fellow represents a very different journey, with unique passions and life experiences, but ultimately they all end up in the same place, having succeeded in finding a career with meaning.
The fellows span the spectrum when it comes to the careers they have created – from Andrew Youn who went from a career in financial consulting to founding the One Acre Fund to address chronic hunger in farming communities in Kenya, to Socheata Pouev who turned her love of story-telling into an award-winning documentary about her Cambodian heritage and the atrocities that her ancestors lived through during the Khmer Rouge regime. The book also profiles Echoing Green’s own president Cheryl Dorsey, as well as Mark Hanis, founder of the Genocide Intervention Network, and Mardie Oakes, who has transformed the lives of individuals with special needs through her organization Hello Housing.
Readers get to experience first-hand the struggles and challenges that each fellow went through on their own path to finding their purpose, whether it be worrying about not living up to their parents expectations, or figuring out how to quit a job that was making them miserable. The book is broken down into four chapters, which takes the reader through each stage of the journey alongside the five fellows. The first chapter looks at each fellow’s beginnings, going back to experiences from childhood and revealing those moments when their passions were apparent. The second discusses “lives out of whack” and shows those times when the fellows didn’t know what direction they were heading in, and the mistakes they made trying to figure it out. Third, shows the magic that happens when passions and abilities begin to align and the fellows have their “aha moment.” Lastly is the arrival at hustle, or what each fellow identifies as their career path, their work on purpose.
Galinsky says she hopes at each point in the book, readers will ask themselves what working on purpose means for them. “It’s not easy and people often want to put off facing difficult questions, but reflecting on them is crucial to finding the next best step forward,” she says. The book even provides the opportunity for self-reflection; each chapter concludes with a series of questions, such as: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid of failing?” followed by space for readers to write their answers directly into the book. Echoing Green also developed a model to help readers align their goals towards a positive end result. The model is “heart + head = hustle.” This translates to a framework that any reader can apply to his or her own life. The “heart” is the first part the equation, which represents what you’re most passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning. The second part of the equation is “head” and translates to the skill sets, beliefs, and talent you have to offer. When the elements of “heart” and “head” are combined, that is when you unleash your fullest potential, get in the zone and achieve your “hustle.”
The stories in the book emphasize the importance of finding that balance between the elements of heart of head, while also exploring the pitfalls of focusing too much on one or the other variable in the equation. One memorable anecdote from the book recounts when fellow Mark Hanis was so overloaded with passion that he worked himself into exhaustion and ended up in the hospital as a result. It was only after he took a step back to rest, and bring his head into the equation that Mark was able to figure out where to focus his efforts so he could successfully start his organization, the Genocide Intervention Network. The book can be read chronologically, or, I also found it to be quite powerful when read non-linearly, by reading the story of each fellow from start to finish. When focused on one fellow at a time, you can really feel the impact of that individual’s journey and see the transformation more closely, rather than jumping between the five stories in each chapter.
In keeping with Echoing Green’s goal for Work on Purpose to be a practical resource for creating an impact-driven career, the book contains an index of over 150 resources, including career and internship websites, public service organizations, social entrepreneurship fellowships, and media and blogs that focus on social change, among many others. The index provides a rich reference guide to getting started in the field, as well as those looking for like-minded organizations and networking opportunities.
Additionally, Echoing Green has launched a new section of their website dedicated to Work on Purpose, and related resources. Starting this month, Echoing Green will be launching an interview series on the site where visitors can find more influential stories about leaders in the community who created meaningful careers. An activity guide and worksheets will also be available on the site for educators and group leaders who want to apply the lessons of Work on Purpose in their own communities. Ultimately, Galinksy says, “It’s my dream that more and more people will not merely have jobs, but have purpose.”