Why I chose social enterprise over the corporate world [as featured in the Guardian]

Published by The Guardian Social Enterprise Network.

Thursday 6 February 2014 07.00 GMT

Sanum Jain Guardian Social Enterprise Career Guardian Social Enterprise NetworkBy this time last year, some of my peers at the University of Manchester had secured jobs at reputable corporations while others had launched their first business or started making travel plans. I was somewhere in the middle, like many students in third year – stuck in a limbo of tedious application forms and not knowing what would become of me after graduation.

So I decided to assess my skills, pinpoint a particular path and find opportunities. I found that I loved writing and social media. I selected PR as a possible route, and came across a GiveMeTap internship. Little did I know that what I had first approached as work experience to prepare me for a PR office job would become a love affair with social enterprise. I now co-run GiveMeTap, heading all communications, PR and marketing at the grand age of 21.

So why did I decide to stay and work for a small social enterprise instead of applying to large-scale organisations, especially when I’m not an entrepreneur? Mainly, it is the sheer fulfilment and job satisfaction that I feel every single day. Some people get this satisfaction through making money and others through their creative expression. For me, knowing that my work is helping people across the world is enough to make me excited to wake up in the morning.

Secondly, by being part of a small team, your role is constantly morphing and every day is different. One day you may be designing a website and the next day you may be talking to journalists. There is no paper pushing, no ‘cogs in the wheel’ and everything you do is integral to the business. Subsequently, you can grow your talents and develop skills you didn’t think possible. For example, I’ve started to learn code, I’ve engaged in sales activity, and I’ve been involved with supply chain operations.

Many graduates leave university seeking stable, long-term employment from a reputable company instead of taking chances on their true passions. However, that security is not guaranteed; the CIPD have observed that turnover rates for young people (especially those caused by redundancy) are significantly high and increasing due to the economic climate. If risk is already an increased factor in the conventional job market, isn’t that further reason for graduates to take their own risks? This includes joining small business, starting out on their own, and being part of socially conscious ventures.

During my journey, however, I have also learned that even if you choose a route that diverges from that of the corporate world, your paths are sure to cross at some point. Instead of working for a large company, you may find yourself working with them, just as GiveMeTap has many corporate clients who involve us in their supply chain. By engaging with these businesses, there is potential to involve them as a vehicle towards success, while helping them to achieve their own social or environmental goals.

Although the perks and prospects of the corporate lifestyle are undisputed, working for a social enterprise opens the possibility of fulfilling opportunity that many don’t know exists. I believe Generation Y can be the driving force towards a future where sustainability and ethics are at the core of every business. Muster the courage, get into gear, and enjoy the journey!

‘So… what are your other interests and hobbies?’

I believe that time management is extremely important. So much so that I boil everything down to how I can economise my time and fit it all in.

Recently, I have found myself increasingly lazy. I get up, I go to work, I come home and make some dinner. Many people would then go on to say that they play tennis, because they love the rush. Others would say volunteer at a youth club or even crochet as a hobby. Although not everyones cup of tea, all of these things are substantially more productive than what I now do – watch repeats of the Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother or even Friends. If at a future interview, I am asked what I do in my spare time, I might as well leave the room there and then!

This has lead me to think really hard about my time and what I do with it. I used to be SO busy all the time. Why is it that I no longer feel this need to be productive after work finishes? I then realised what the difference was between my busy lifestyle 6 months ago, and my slower-paced lifestyle of today. Purpose. Most things we do have a purpose. We go to school to learn. We have a job to earn money and pay the bills. We then have hobbies or interests in order relax, enjoy and generally receive some fulfilment. We find ourselves busy because we want to fit all of these things into the day, including our extra activities.

long-day-at-work

What I have realised is that my job and my interests have merged. I LOVE my job and get extreme satisfaction from doing the work I do (touch wood). When I get home after a long 9-6 work day, I do not feel the need to ‘reclaim my creativity’ as I know many of my friends do. What I would do after my day job, is what I actually do as my day job. Therefore, I can relax in a non-productive way, letting my brain recuperate and letting my feet rest when I get home.

I must admit that I am rather lucky to be feeling this way. I must also realise that not all my jobs will bring this same satisfaction. Most of all, I must admit to myself that I will eventually get bored of watching repeats of Big Bang Theory. However, I truly believe that at some stage, everyone should take a chance and do something they love for a living and experience the relief of coming home satisfied, fulfilled and happy.

Over and Out.

Learn more about why I started this blog at About Sanum Jain.

There ain’t no rest for the wicked: Our attitudes towards sleep

While sharing this TedTalk, I must confess that I had watched it at 2am, on a work night, when I should have been catching some z’s.

My relationship with sleep has always been a bit of a love and hate situation. I love sleeping but hate that point of going to sleep. My bed loves to keep me warm and I hate to get out of it. My main issue with spending those 8 hours rejuvenating my brain, is that I have been made to believe that I am wasting time.

Think about the number of things the average person does on a daily basis. We work; we eat; we travel; we pick up the kids; we shop; we love; we cry; we rest.

Now think about the things that the average person also wants to do. Explore our passions; make our hobbies into a side business; Read that book your friend let you borrow 3 months ago; go to the gym for more than 45 minutes; love a bit more; cry a bit more; all at the same time.

Both of these sets of things are on the checklist of daily life in order of their priority and therefore, rarely completely ticked off. We don’t have time to pursue those extra things that we want to do, while maintaining the quality of the things we are obliged to do. In some cases, we are actually expected to do all of these activities. All my life i’ve been asked ‘so what else do you do’. There are simply not enough hours in the day.

So how do we tackle this? Many of us have come to the conclusion that ‘something has got to give’. It is highly interesting that the activity that ends up being sacrificed is sleep; not work, that takes up the largest proportion of our day, but the most important cognitive function.

The idealist inside me wishes that this wasn’t the case. It wishes that the ‘daily grind’ would step down a gear and allow us to live life at a less stressful pace, where we are allowed to give time to other things that are important to us such as our passions and sleep. It also hopes that we realise that we have spent so much time ‘economising’ our time, that the actual value of time has been lost. It is a shame and I am hoping that I will start to appreciate the science of sleep a bit more.

Over and Out.

Good Kid, Maad City: Weeks 7&8

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. Being involved with GiveMeTap operations as well as PR/communications means that many days are spent just getting things done, as opposed to big events… I want to say this is my excuse for not writing a Week 7 entry, but I’m sure i’ll be caught out sooner than later as I actually spent quite a bit of last week on holiday!

IT IS SUMMER, YOU KNOW!

2013-08-08 16.46.44

So right now i’m going to just talk about 2 amazing things that have happened over the last couple of weeks. Both have added substantially to my PR portfolio (although one has  significantly more than the other!)

Firstly, I was interviewed by London Calling, who loves GiveMeTap and wanted a feature to share with London. Read it HERE. This was amazing as it has now gone on their website and I felt like a minor celebrity for about 5 minutes. It was nice! Today, three of my friends and family have shared my interview on social media, showering me with kind words of praise. Thank you – you know who you are!

2013-08-15 23.24.18Secondly, and more importantly, a lead that I had been chasing had finally been closed. We were published in the most widely distributed and read paper on public transport in the UK – THE METRO! Yes,  you heard right! THE ACTUAL METRO. For years I have been reading that infamous publication and not just for the guilty pleasures or the horoscope! I knew that when I came to GiveMeTap, it would be my aim, not only to have a print published piece, but get into the Metro. I DID IT! I managed to bag Edwin an interview with a writer who happened to LOVE what GiveMeTap were doing. He wrote an amazing piece on us and the traction that day was UNBELIEVABLE. Sales were through the roof, people were talking about us and people were even recognising us. Again, I felt like a minor celebrity but for a bit longer than 5 minutes this time! 🙂

You can read the piece HERE.

Watching this business grow is amazing. Not only is the work satisfying, but it is so much fun! I genuinely feel sometimes, that this is all a dream. I hate the thought of pinching myself and waking up at my university desk writing an application for a job I don’t want at a firm I don’t want to be working for. A good friend and mentor of mine once told me, “Never compromise on what you want from life. By all means ‘shop around’. Explore all your options. But just don’t compromise…” Wise words from a wise woman. I intend to follow them!

Over & Out

Good Kid, Maad City: Week 5 (this is a good’un…)

FIRSTLY I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all friends, family, people from afar, who have read my blog. I hope you are all enjoying the story of my journey. I definitely enjoy writing about it. 

IMG_0056 - Version 2

This week has been intense – probably the best week so far and also one of the most eventful weeks in a very long time. On Tuesday, I graduated from the University of Manchester with a 2.1 degree in Economics & Development Studies. Graduating is an extremely surreal experience. It consists of getting your gown fitted by a stranger, hoping you sit next to someone you know in the hall and then ensuring that your family takes you for an extravagant meal. I was lucky enough to get fitted by someone from my hometown, be seated next to a guy I knew from a first year tutorial and found a secret, beautiful pizzaria to celebrate with my family. However, Graduation itself, is a production line. A queue of students, being stamped with some sort of ‘seal of approval’ and ready to be shipped off and shelved with the rest of the world. It was a happy but somehow a depressing few hours.

Onto more exciting things, GiveMeTap have been hard at work but having a bit too much fun as well. Edwin (my boss) came back from Ghana after unveiling the latest water project. He showed us hundreds of photos from his time with the people of Kpakpalamuni, in the Upper West region of Ghana. It was hard to see the conditions that these people live in but then seeing the water pump we installed just reassured me of why I chose to be apart of GiveMeTap. We just helped around 850 people by giving them access to clean drinking water and practically eradicating the chances of them dying from water-related diseases.

2013-07-19 11.09.05

Many of you may have seen me plaster Facebook with the events of Friday. Friday was the best day of my time in London so far! GMT were lucky enough to be approached by the BBC to do a segment on tap water as part of another feature. We filmed outside FlatPlanet, a flat bread eatery on Great Marlborough Street. I very much recommend you visit for lunch, by the way. Amazing food and people! Edwin shot an interview where he got to talk about the GMT scheme and officially place the Tap sticker on the FlatPlanet door.

2013-07-19 11.19.01

The Droplets’ moment of fame came when we hit Carnaby Street. Ben and I were filmed talking to members of the public about tap water and about GMT. Needless to say, handing out flyers was frustrating and did not receive a great reception, however I plucked up the courage to talk to people and encourage them to talk on telly for 30 seconds. Remember, my childhood dream was to be a Blue Peter presenter, so I needed to step up! It was such a fun day and really got us all at GMT really hyped! We hope the segment will air in a few weeks.

1012379_10151589364913167_1745746529_n

Hold your horses before you jump from here to Facebook, as the day did not end there… as a PR intern, I’ve been trying to find ways of boosting GMT’s publicity. It just so happened that because my (amazing) aunt spent the week mentoring at Kings Collage for a Space Outreach programme, she got to work with Astronaut Kenneth Ham and his wife and astronaut trainer, Michelle Ham. Ken had discussed with his students on the programme, the importance of looking after our planet and how he could see from space the damage we were doing to our home. I was able to use this opportunity to ask Ken a few questions for GiveMeTap, about the importance of reducing waste and protecting everyone on our planet. My first mini interview with a renowned  Space Personality, a casual dose of Pimms o’clock and conversations about space food. Not bad!

The day ended with a spontaneous trip to Riverside Theatre to see the powerful Nirbhaya, a play based on the events last December – the Delhi Gang-rape. Nirbhaya was the name given to the victim, meaning Fearless One. This play was less a performance, but more a theatrical sequence of testimonials. Real stories from acting personalities who had experienced the toils of being a female in India, Pakistan and even America and chose now to reveal their stories. I didn’t realise until after the performance that these Women were telling their own stories. This wasn’t acting. This was real. The Delhi Rape posed as a turning point for all 5 of these Women who then chose to share their most personal experiences with us through theatre. Powerful, Intense and left me lost for words. I will be writing a review of this, hopefully tomorrow, so please please read it. However uncomfortable, it is a must see for everyone, especially young men and women from South Asian backgrounds.Overall, this has been such a productive, intense and emotional week. It is probably the first time I have felt that I would love to tell you all individually what I have done and explain every detail! For those of you who will be lucky enough to escape this, I hope you have had an equally as amazing week. For those of you who I may see soon, BE PREPARED!

Over & Out.

Shivers from Chivalry?

As a 90’s child, I have been brought up in quite a confusing era. The mix of traditional values mixed with liberal progression has put us all, especially women, in a huge predicament.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about chivalry and ‘Gentlemanly’ behaviour. I’ve spent a lot of time living in different British cities as well as abroad in Boston. I’ve also extensively travelled in the East. The same thoughts always enter my mind when I encounter a situation when a man opens a door for me and even when they don’t. Should a man feel obliged to open a door for me? As a feminist, should I allow them to do it or does this signify a weakness or inferiority? Do I have to offer to open the door for him? I JUST WANT TO GET THROUGH THE BLOODY DOOR!

9_chivalry-lessons-from-legendary-gentleman-flashAlas, this ‘palava’ occurs almost daily, especially as I enter the world of work. Just this morning, a man opened the door and signaled me to enter first. I declined and said ‘oh no, after you!’ but he insisted and I yielded.  Furthermore, my brother would shave his sideburns before allowing me to carry my own suitcase, and believe me, he loves his sideburns…

A few points I have thought about and have read on this issue…

I’ve tried to think objectively when assessing whether there are gender issues at play. Hard, I know, but I have to try. I have began to use Caitlin Moran‘s test for whether something is sexist or not – simply – ‘Are the men doing it?’. If they are not, then something must be wrong in the gender balance that needs to be assessed. In this case, are the men worried about chivalrous women or alternatively, are women extending the same ‘gentle-womanly’ courtesy to men. I would argue that they do and therefore chivalry is not benevolent sexism. In a post-feminist society, where women are (or should be) just as likely to offer to pay the bill or open the door, I think it is more appropriate to assess chivalrous behaviour as just simple politeness.  One person extending a courtesy to another based on their common decency. I might even go as far to say women seem to be expected to do these kind of things whereas men seem to want a gold star for helping a girl with her coat. I fully understand that this is quite a Western concept of manners, however. No one in China will give up a seat for you even if you were pregnant and/or on crutches…

Another, probably more controversial argument for the return of chivalry is to protect women from the fact that, whether we like it or not, we are generally the physically weaker sex. Personally, I do agree with this notion but I understand why many women may object to this statement. I’ve read that the original point of chivalry in the Middle Ages was to ensure the protection of women from men who could do them harm, had they not had the respect and civility that we can chivalry. This social construct was created to prevent violence, domestic abuse and general hostility. We all know that this may not have been wholly successful, but I fully believe that the construct of this ‘kind’ behaviour may have prevented many males from having a hostile nature towards women. We can see, for example,  a current trend  in lack of this social expectation and a dangerous increase in ‘Lad” culture.

A story from the life of Samuel Proctor (d. 1997) comes to mind here, that I read in The Atlantic. Proctor was the  pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. The story goes, he was in the elevator one day when a young woman came in. Proctor tipped his hat at her. She was offended and said, “What is that supposed to mean?”

The pastor’s response: “Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things. That I would not harm you in any way. That if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you. That if you fell ill, I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that; so, instead, I just tipped my hat.”

What a babe.

633768982298016740-chivalryI figured, that as a young women, I needed to establish my position on issues such as these. I choose to view chivalry not as an act of condescension, but as a kindly respect of men for their counterparts. Sometimes I think women need to have a little less pride and men a bit more tact. This isn’t to say I would think badly of a man if he didn’t hold my door open. I would probably start blushing if he tucked in my chair at dinner or opened my car door. But, it does allow me to appreciate the awkwardnesses and limitations of both our sexes within the ever changing society we are growing up in. None of us know what we are doing and we are stuck in etiquette-limbo…

I would absolutely LOVE to hear your views on this, more than anything else i’ve written. I’ve not covered all bases, just a few quick thoughts (or whims!), so comment away!

Over and Out.

If you haven’t already, find out what adoseofpersonalwhim is about in About Sanum Jain