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.