What is an ethical career?
You might immediately think of working in the environmental sector, but an ethical career can have a much wider scope. In the broadest sense, it means working for a company or organisation that has a positive impact on the world. This can be through employment, social enterprise or by setting up your own company.
What is a positive impact?
Well, this can vary widely depending on your own frame of reference and what you consider to be your key values and ethics. Spend time considering what is important to you, where your skills lie and how you feel you may be able to develop within a role. Is there a cause you are particularly passionate about? That might be a good place to start – if you are already engaged by the goal it can be easier to find appropriate volunteering opportunities and to find that first role.
Organisations that have a positive impact try to build sustainability and equality throughout everything they do. They understand their work should have a positive effect or influence on society at a broad level. For some job seekers, therefore, it might simply mean being aware of the company’s corporate and social policy before applying for a role. For others, it might mean that the field of work has a direct positive impact, for example working in the areas of lobbying, creating policy or campaigning. For academics, the impact can be much more direct. Through innovative research, education and publications, your ideas can help to change the world.
Where can I find an ethical role?
A few decades ago, the majority of impact jobs existed only in government or the non-profit sectors but these days many organisations are engaging with the world of corporate social responsibility, whether they are investing profits in altruistic causes or incorporating ethical initiatives into their business models. Within academia, considering the impact of a particular department or academic before applying for a new role can be key. Look carefully at publications and research papers being produced and assess the impact being made on the wider world. How will your specialisms fit in with their field of research, are there any key contacts you can approach to work collaboratively?
Can I have a positive impact within my current role?
Yes. Considering the wider impact of even a minor business decision can be very influential. For example:
- If you have management responsibility can you implement training programmes designed to help people think carefully about their impact?
- If you work in sales or marketing, you can ensure you only work with partners that focus on sustainability
- If your role involves sourcing and/or the supply chain, you have a direct impact on the choices made by your organisation and can put pressure on more suppliers to adopt sustainable practices
Where can I find out more?
Amongst others, the website 80,000 Hours is a UK-based organisation that helps people find careers with a positive social impact. It is based on the estimate that the average person will spend 80,000 hours of their life working – enough time to have a radical impact on the world around them. Working with academics from Oxford University, they have carried out significant research into making career choices that will have a positive impact and it is very worthwhile spending time reading their articles and advice.
Throughout your working life, you have the ability to make a real difference; making time to think about this now can have a real impact not only on your own future but on the wider world around you.
Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again and you will be filled with joy.