Written by Jo Alexander
By being honest with myself about the internal conflicts that I was feeling at work and by talking to trusted friends about this struggle, I found my way from the oil industry to On Purpose and A Blueprint for Better Business.
Whilst working as a Geologist in oil exploration, I started to feel pessimistic about my future career and had a sense of unease about the environment I found myself in. But why was I feeling this way when there was so much to be grateful for? I was earning a good salary, on a final salary pension scheme, had a great reputation built over 11 years and found the day to day work intellectually engaging… So why on earth did I want to leave this behind? Well, because my gut was telling me to. I needed to step out of the industry to understand the reasons for my discomfort: reasons which have now become much more obvious to me.
I have come to understand and acknowledge that working in oil exploration did not align with my personal sense of purpose. As a Geologist, I have always been deeply concerned about the world’s lack of effective action to tackle climate change, and believe that the world needs to move away from burning fossil fuels. I had to face up to the fact that my role as a Geologist, tasked with finding oil and gas, was part of the problem: not the solution. I was ready to take on a leadership role, but was struggling with how I could be an authentic leader in this context.
I want a long and interesting career that I’m truly passionate about, where I feel I’m having a positive impact on the world and society. I also want to be able to balance this with family and nurturing my creative talents. Does this mean I have particularly high expectations of life? Should I be less ambitious? Or is this what every individual should be able to achieve?
Such a profound career change is scary to navigate by yourself which is why I thank my lucky stars that I found On Purpose. It’s a “community that helps you find your work in the world: work that matters and work that you care about”. They “believe that only by doing this will we have a chance of solving society’s most difficult problem”’ (Tom Rippin, On Purpose Founder and CEO).
As an On Purpose associate, I am embarking on a year-long program to develop my leadership in social enterprise. I am challenging myself to look for a more purposeful career, alongside 16 other like-minded people, and am lucky enough to be supported by a mentor, coach and the wider On Purpose community. We learn on the job and are placed within social enterprises that prioritise purpose alongside of, or even ahead of, profit. Examples include education charities, consultancies and social investment funds. I’m thrilled to have been placed with Blueprint; it is such a privilege to be embedded in an organisation involved in thought leadership and to engage with businesses about personal and organisational purpose. I’m very excited to get started!