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how to build a purpose-driven career

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

65% of Gen Z employees cite ‘making a difference to a cause they care about’ as one of their top priorities in the workplace. Interestingly, respondents also stated they would rather achieve this by working for an innovative and impact-driven company, than working for a non-profit or NGO.

We want impact, purpose and to contribute to a better world. However, building a purposeful career is not always an easy process to navigate. Here are some tips to get you started.

5 tips to bag that purposeful career

1. Get clear on your values

Figure out the north star of your decision-making in life and conclude with a personal mission statement. Taking the time to write down your values and understand what is truly important to you, will make it much easier to align yourself with causes and companies. If you need help figuring that out check out our values workbook here.

2. Figure out your purpose

If you want purpose and impact within your job, you’ve got to find out what will give you that. Keeping your values as a cornerstone, figure out what you want to contribute to in life and go with it (or at least experiment so you’ll know in the long run). It could be helping to close the gender leadership gap like the female factor, contributing to a more sustainable world through their packaging and paper products like Mondi or building software to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace like Kollektiv MFG. Knowing your values may also give you insight into what gives you purpose.

3. Find that matching company

It is standard practice for companies to demonstrate their values on their website or through their social media. Do your research, read those ‘about us’ pages and find the companies with matching values.

Working in healthcare, education, public service or for non-profit organisations can all be purposeful careers, but an impactful job isn’t just limited to the public sector. There are many companies operating within the private sector that provide jobs with purpose and meaning. You can be contributing to a better world by working at a company that lives by sustainability or you could consider a role that contributes to purpose internally like a D&I officer or sustainability officer.

4. Look in the right places

Looking for open positions on job platforms that screen companies before displaying them can save you a lot of time. Job platforms are also responding to this demand for more purposeful careers and various different sites will only showcase jobs at companies that fit their respective criteria. The female factor job platform screens every company according to a points system including criteria on the company’s policies, history, employee gender balance and ratings on employee review sites before listing them on the platform.

5. Mention that purpose

Once you’ve found a match with a company, be sure to express your interest in their purpose through your application and in the interviews. Having a purpose that aligns with that of your employer leads to higher job satisfaction, a win-win for both sides. How to plug it in will depend on the application process, but you could work it into your CV and highlight any previous work or activities that relate to the purpose or include it as part of an answer on the application form. Did we just provide you with the perfect answer to the dreaded “why do you want to work for us?” question?

hear from someone who's built their own purpose-driven career

We had a chat with Sara Praeceptor, who started her journey at Mondi in sustainable development and now works as a specialist in diversity & inclusion.

Q1: What are some of your own values in life that relate to the work you do?

A: "I was always incredibly invested in the good of the many - I remember fighting with my teacher in religion class, advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. It was always this intrinsic passion to do what’s right, mainly by empathising and listening to the people around me.

“I knew I wanted to do good, help others and have an impact, but it never felt like something I could achieve through work. Thankfully, that turned out to be wrong!"

Q2: How did you get your job at Mondi? What did they take into consideration in your application?

A: "I applied for an internship at Mondi, without really having an idea of what I wanted to do. During my interview, I casually mentioned the fact that I’m interested in sustainability and that I’m vegan. And this small comment launched my career. Who would have thought?

"I didn’t get the job I applied for, (obviously, since I was not prepared at all) but Mondi reached out and asked whether I wanted to join their Sustainability department as an intern instead, and suddenly, I had a job that combined my purpose and career ambitions.

"My advice to job seekers would be: don't be afraid to talk about your passions and your values. Of course recruiters will look at your education and work experiences, but you may be surprised to see that the one thing that can really set you apart is the passion you have for something that could seem unrelated at the time."

Q3: Does Mondi look for candidates that are eager to have an impact in their work and are interested in sustainability? Is this part of the hiring process?

A: "Absolutely! At this point, nearly all job descriptions within Mondi have something to do with environmental and / or social sustainability. It’s also an interest we actively look for in interviews, as every job and every task we undertake at Mondi should ultimately contribute to our sustainability goals and targets."

Q4: How did you know that this was the right choice for your next career steps?

A: "Well, I had no idea at the time. You only know whether it was the right choice after you make it.

"What I can say is that for now, it feels like the right choice, and will continue to be for some years to come. I can see how my life changed once I started working in an environment that I can be myself in, and with people and topics I really care about. I don’t need to suppress the things I’m passionate about until after my 9-5 job. I don’t have to wear this corporate mask and then hope to find time to work on the stuff I actually care about. Instead, I get to combine those two areas, which is definitely the right direction for me."

Q5: Is there a purpose-driven project you’ve worked on in Mondi that you’re really proud of?

A: "I have been working on something in my new job as a D&I specialist that I think is really going to move the needle. It is a community we started within Mondi called the Curious Community, for people who are interested in and want to learn about diversity and inclusion in a safe and respectful environment, a community where we can have these really difficult conversations without judgement. It’s an amazing space for people to come together, learn, and be valued for who they are. We just had our first large scale event this summer and I cannot put into words how proud I am, and how wonderful it is to see how it was received."

Q6: How would you advise others that want to find a career with impact?

A: "One thing I cannot stress enough is that you don’t have to choose between your values and your career - these things can integrate!

"Look at it this way: you may be someone driven by extremely intricate systems, always looking at problems and finding small solutions that make a big difference. That would make you a great oncologist, but it may also make you a great data scientist, working on improving processes, like the ones we rely on at my work. These are two completely different jobs, but both of them can integrate your values and purpose.

"I would also advise people to find out what exactly it is they are interested in, as specific as they can make it. Not a generic statement like ‘I like people’, but the really nitty-gritty details of what makes you jump out of bed in the morning - and then get a career that lets you feel that way every day."

Ready to explore purposeful job opportunities? If Mondi sounds like a match for your purposeful career, check out their open positions here.


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