I have been fortunate to have the opportunity in trying many things in terms of internships and jobs, spanning from my college years up to this day where I am finishing my Master in Business Administration degree. I have tried working for multinational companies, nonprofit organizations, a startup, and currently as a member of the higher education academic community.
Viewed in the traditional perspective, this smorgasbord of experiences may raise red flags from seasoned HR practitioners. They might say this is typical Gen Y or Millienial mentality—fickle, selfish, and to some extent disloyal to an organization. However, the overarching theme emerging from these career decisions revolve around picking the best aspects of each stint and reconciling them with my goal of living a holistic career, imbued with money, mission, and passion harmonizing with the way I think life should be lived. I believe that the key to living a career featuring sustainability and responsibility is how a person is able to reconcile these aspects with minimal tradeoffs. Below are four initial lessons or reflections I would like to share.
Point 1: Desire for flexibility
I acknowledge that I do not have the most concrete ideas on what the ideal “CSR” career will look like. Hence, I have this great desire for flexibility that allows for inflection points and shaping my vision as it emerges.
This is what I found challenging in highly structured organizations with concrete goals and visions, usually prevalent in multinational corporations. There are set goals to be met – quotas, number of projects, maintaining clients, etc. Your performance and rewards are basically measured by how well you execute these mandated goals, and if one executes and even exceeds these targets, usually big rewards await.
However, the flipside is critical: one must be fully dedicated to the company goals or else he cannot maximize his productivity and will be stuck in a conundrum of always second guessing one’s self. Ideally, one’s personal vision should be tightly aligned with the company goals. If one should pursue a CSR career in highly structured organizations, it is vital to integrate your personal CSR goals with the company’s mechanisms.
In my personal experience, this is hard. A corporate career with great personal flexibility is like capturing a lightning in a bottle. It will take tremendous alignment between your immediate stakeholders to make things work. Hence, I found it beneficial for me right now to work in an organization that allows me to be a kind of “intrapreneur”—leveraging resources of the organization while aligning it with my personal and emerging visions of what an ideal personal CSR could be.
Point 2: Maximizing opportunities
The environment or context we live in is very dynamic and eternally changing in a very fast pace. As a result of this, I think gone are the days where personal and organizational visions should be fixed; rather, they must be agile enough to maximize whatever opportunities may arise along the way.
Since personal CSR is somewhat relative and can be changed, it is vital for person to somewhat design his life that exposes him to many opportunities that allow for tinkering money, mission, and passion. In my personal experience, after I attained my undergraduate degree, I was fixated on being very deliberate with my choices. A leads to B leads to C leads to D. I failed to recognize that truly, only change is constant, and the happenings in my surroundings will undoubtedly influence my options.
Hence, I am now biased for positions and roles which allow many kinds of opportunities arising. I am still not very comfortable with uncertainty, but I take peace in the fact that with uncertainty comes opportunity—steps that allow for better designing of a career that truly reconciles money, mission, and passion.
Point 3: Sticking to my key strengths
The challenge in trying many things is the danger of confusing one’s self in terms of answering the question: “Where am I good at? What do I want to be known as great at?” I have tried managing an organization’s social media, executing marketing activations, implementing various projects and events, designing paraphernalia, and improving operations and processes. The fear was real – I did not want to be a jack of all trades, master of none. At best, I wanted to be a jack of all trades, master of one or even some (because mastering everything is difficult, if not impossible).
And that pursuit of mastery of one, for me, turned to be writing. Sometimes creative writing, in forms of simple songs, poetry, and blogging; sometimes technical writing, in forms of documents, formal letters, and scholarly research articles. I wished to be competent in many areas concerning management of organizations, but I know that I am in my element when my activities involve writing. I am not yet the best creative or technical writer I could be; and that is okay. I will continue to grow and I can confidently improve because I know what my key strength is.
For this, I am grateful for my high school English mentor and my current research mentors. Through them, I was able to affirm something that I know I have the potential at, and this allows me to frame sustainability and social responsibility in terms of my key strength.
Point 4: Staying loyal to my personal values and purpose – “personal legend”
Currently, what I really value is the ability to reconcile idealism and being practical, mission and money, dreams of what could be grounded on what can really be. It seems that in all my previous stints in various organizations, I always challenge myself to think in terms of proving idealism need not be mere naivete, rather, it allows for ideas that help us make reality a much better place to live in.
Have I crafted already that ideal career that integrates money and mission, sustainability and social responsibility? Not yet. I dare say I am still far from it. That is where faith comes in – a belief that every struggle is every knock that persistently opens that door. “Knock and the door will be opened.” And by all means, let us knock hard, bang hard, because the career we desire will not be given; it shall be earned. And though God loves us, He will not open the doors just because He pities us. He knows we deserve better than that.
We will knock. We will shout. Once He deems us as deserving, then the door will be opened to us.