“My girlfriend innocently asked me how work was going, and I went off on a long rant.”

Image of David Bartram
From Finance to Supporting Social Ventures

David Bartram followed a successful corporate trajectory after university, but didn’t feel the purpose and passion he craved. So he set out to discover something more. His shift took longer than he’d hoped, but he’s now found a way to use his business head to support causes that speak to his heart. This is his story.

What work were you doing previously?

I come from a purely commercial career at McKinsey & Company and Lloyds Banking Group.

After university I focused on financial services and always thought I'd end up working in The City for a large corporate.

What are you doing now?

I'm at UnLtd, an organisation working to support social entrepreneurs.

It's a hugely innovative and impactful company that I'm extremely proud to be part of. ('Proud' – it feels good writing that.)

I head up the Ventures team at UnLtd. We focus on supporting ambitious social ventures, helping them grow their business and increase their impact through the work they do.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make a change?

I was lost.

The City wasn't for me. I don't mean that from purely a moral high ground; I kept coming back to this idea of 'purpose' – something about my work just didn't quite sit right for me.

Why did you change?

I needed something different.

I wanted to go to work and make a difference. And I wanted to do something that I felt passionate about.

I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do that. I felt privileged that, with my background, I could make choices with my career. That certainly wasn't the case for my parents, and so I didn't want to waste the opportunity.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I was three months into my job at Lloyds.

My girlfriend at the time innocently asked me how work was going and I went off on a long rant.

I realised then that something had to change.

How did you choose your new career?

I spent a year researching, analysing, reflecting, and meeting interesting people.

You'd be surprised how happy people are to talk to you about their jobs if they enjoy what they do, so actually it wasn't hard to find them.

Are you happy with the change?

I couldn't be happier.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

Honestly, there isn't a single thing I miss.

What don't I miss? My answer in the office on a Monday morning to the question "How are things?", which was normally "Yeah, OK – only five days to go until the weekend." That was no fun.

How did you go about making the shift?

I spoke to people I trusted.

I also spoke to a lot of people who loved their jobs, including a friend of a friend who does some career change work as a consultant. That was inspiring for me.

I spent a lot of time reflecting and self-analysing. I didn't jump into another job doing something similar; I wanted to make sure my next move was the right move. So, I made sure I knew what it was that I wanted to do.

And I discovered that that was using the power of business to help society.

I was also fortunate in discovering and joining a programme called On Purpose, which allowed me to transition into social enterprise while still earning a salary.

What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?

I wouldn't say that I took any wrong turns, but it did take time.

I was getting frustrated that things weren't happening quicker. Both in terms of self-reflection and finding my ideal job.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I leaned on my family and my (now) wife for financial support.

I made sacrifices, but those sacrifices seem insignificant now, compared to what I've achieved.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Finding out what it was that I wanted to change.

I spent all that time at school and university working towards a particular job, so to admit to myself that it was the wrong decision and set about undoing it all has been difficult.

The self-reflection has also been challenging.

What help did you get?

The On Purpose programme was by far the biggest help I had.

I also had help and support from friends and family.

What resources would you recommend to others?

There's no one particular resource I'd mention here, but I would recommend leaning on the resources you already have around you.

Friends and family, for example. Ask them about their careers and what they do and don't enjoy.

Do anything you can to think about the role you want to play in this world.

What have you learnt in the process?

There's too much to put here, so I'll try to break it down into some core things:

  • There are always ways of making a change happen.

  • The alignment of your values and morals to your career is fundamental to your success and happiness.

  • Good jobs and careers rarely fall into your lap; you have to work to find them.

  • Just ask and people will offer support and advice.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Do it.

If you're not transparent and honest with yourself, you'll spend your entire life bluffing your way through. There's no fun in looking back on your career with regret.

To learn more about On Purpose, visit www.onpurpose.org.

Also, find out more about On Purpose in our Retraining Directory.

What lessons could you take from David's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.