“I just couldn't picture myself wanting to be any of my bosses.”
From Corporate Finance to Social Finance
What work were you doing previously?
I started out as an accountant at PwC, then tried out corporate finance for a while.
What are you doing now?
I'm now Head of Operations at Fair Finance, a social business tackling financial exclusion, based in East London.
Why did you change?
I didn't care enough about what I was doing.
I'd studied Geography, and always known that there were a lot of things I wanted to change about the world. And yet there I was, working on things that had started to seem a bit pointless.
I also just couldn't picture myself wanting to be any of my bosses, which was a bit depressing.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I'd been thinking of making the jump to social enterprise from PwC, but I played safe instead and moved to a small corporate finance firm.
A friend forwarded me a job ad three months after I moved. It was a social investment role and I was instantly curious. The company worked with such interesting social enterprises and charities. And they stood for something; they had opinions that they were fighting to realise.
The contrast between how interested I was in that and how I felt about the role I was in made it obvious to me that I needed to make the leap.
Are you happy with the change?
Most of the time, yes!
There are moments when I ask why I work harder than before for less money, but usually something good comes along to remind me pretty quickly.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
Social enterprises are obviously a lot less well resourced than big professional services firms.
I miss all the luxuries – nice offices, print rooms, facilities managers – and sometimes the comfort that comes from so much structure.
I don't miss being a MS PowerPoint production machine; everything I do now has a purpose!
How did you go about making the shift?
I started a serious Google hunt, which was easy, but pretty ineffective.
Eventually, a friend who knew what I was looking for introduced me to a programme called On Purpose.
The programme was set up to help people transition into the social enterprise world. It was perfectly made for me. It was a tough application process, harder than any I'd done before, actually. But I made it.
On Purpose set me up with two six-month, paid placements in social enterprises. One was a start-up student loans company, and the other the UK's leading venture-philanthropy organisation. It also had a great package of training on social enterprise, and a mini MBA-style training programme.
However, the most important element was being with a group of seventeen other people on the programme going through the same transition at the same time. Having a group of like-minded people to share my doubts, hopes and thoughts with made it much more doable for me.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
I got impatient a few times.
I nearly jumped into the wrong job just because it was there, because I was getting frustrated with where I was, or because I was nervous I wouldn't find anywhere better. Luckily, none of these came through for me, and I ended up somewhere that fits me really well.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I'd saved up a bit while working beforehand, but the great thing about On Purpose is that while you take quite a pay cut you still get enough to cover most of your costs.
It also re-teaches you how to do London on the cheap!
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Letting go of a lot of the certainty that comes from big stable organisations, and a purely financial motive.
What help did you get?
So much from the cohort I was on in On Purpose.
They were fantastic, a really interesting international bunch who could make the toughest week make sense.
What have you learnt in the process?
I learnt a lot about what I was really looking for in a job, and that I was happy to accept some of the less flattering bits.
I also learned that I need way less money to live on than I thought I did.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Go for it.
The worst-case scenario is that you'll pick up a bunch of new skills and go back to where you were as a more interesting person.
What resources would you recommend to others?
They're probably much more useful than Google.
To find out more about On Purpose, visit www.onpurpose.uk.com
What lessons could you take from David's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.