“I knew I wanted to do something 'good', but I didn't know what that could look like.”
From Financial Services to Social Enterprise
What work were you doing previously?
The bulk of my previous career was spent working at a strategy consultancy – Oliver Wyman Financial Services.
What are you doing now?
I now work at a social enterprise called Oomph! Wellness.
Our mission is to transform the day-to-day quality of life of older people. My focus is on impact measurement and working closely with clients to ensure they're getting the maximum benefit out of our services.
I've worked here for two-and-a-half years and it's been an exciting time during which we've been developing and scaling what we do.
Why did you change?
Whilst Oliver Wyman provided me with a really strong base of skills (that are extremely useful now), a good income and the opportunity to learn from very bright individuals, I couldn't get away from the fact that I was working ridiculously hard, and for what purpose?
It felt like I was contributing to making the rich richer, rather than doing something I believed in and cared about.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I'd actually come across the concept of a social business when I was 18, from reading Muhummud Yunus' book, Creating a World without Poverty.
I was really excited about his vision for the future, and this idea of the worlds of business and charity coming together.
After university, I worked at Oliver Wyman and often felt I would change career at some point, but just didn't know to what, or how I would do it. I knew I wanted to do something 'good' but didn't know what that could look like or to whom I could reach out to support me in finding opportunities.
Are you happy with the change?
I am so pleased I made the shift.
I feel I'm living my life more in line with my values and spending my time in a way that has a positive impact. I wake up in the morning and feel happier going to work… and it particularly motivates me when I have to do the really boring tasks to know it's for a bigger purpose that I care about!
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss the rigour and drive for efficiency and excellence that was an embedded part of the culture and training at Oliver Wyman.
But there are lots of things I don't miss! In particular, the crazy, long hours and feeling like what I did had little value beyond making money.
How did you go about making the shift?
I came across the On Purpose programme quite randomly and it sounded absolutely perfect for me.
It's a year-long leadership programme for those who want to transition careers, combining paid placements, training, mentoring, coaching and an entire community. It meant I had a year to be exposed to all the different options, to figure out where I fitted in, and a network and the credibility to pursue what I wanted.
The year was an incredible experience and enabled me to reach out to Oomph! and create the role I'm in now. Without the programme I would've found it extremely difficult to make the shift.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
When I finished On Purpose I didn't yet have a clear idea of what I wanted to do next.
Whilst I'd spent the year being exposed to lots of different areas, I hadn't spent much time figuring out what that meant for my job. So, I ended up taking quite a bit of time out prior to getting a job to explore this, to leverage the networks I'd built, and to reach out to organisations that I thought were amazing and wanted to work for.
In the end it all worked out… but I definitely could have done this sooner, like most others in my cohort!
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
Whilst on the On Purpose programme I had to keep particularly close watch on my finances. Luckily, I had some savings as a fallback.
Since moving into the sector permanently, I've found a way to make it work and it's been much easier than I'd expected. Of course, the large pay cut from strategy consultancy has had implications for the type of place I live in, things I can do, and my total savings, but at least I have time to spend the money I do earn rather than working all of the time!
And also, just knowing that I'm living in a way that's aligned with what I believe in brings me a lot of comfort and contentment; I wouldn't give this up purely to be able to have more financial luxury.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Initially, it was the culture shock of moving from one sector to another.
The way people worked and approached things was very different to what I was used to and it did leave me quite frustrated at times, particularly when I felt things were moving very slowly or when there was no clear strategy around why something was being done.
But as time went on I learned to appreciate the differences and the more-varied perspectives of the people that I was interacting with, and the value this could bring.
What help did you get?
I got a lot of help along the way.
But the biggest thing that helped happened while I was trying to decide what kind of role I would do after On Purpose. I asked for coffees from many people in the social investment / intermediary space to understand which social enterprises they felt were doing exciting things and met some criteria I had in mind.
Everyone I asked to meet (even if I didn't know them) very generously said yes and offered their time and advice and I really do appreciate that. It was through speaking to them I sought out my current organisation Oomph!.
What have you learnt in the process?
I've learnt to be more free and less worried about the future.
I feel there are so many opportunities and exciting things going on in the sector that when I want to move I'll find something – I just need to go with the flow in life and keep my eyes and ears open to what's out there. I now think the adventure of not knowing what I might be doing in the future is part of the fun!
I've also learnt that having a strong network is so critical to support you and provide these opportunities, which is why I really value the On Purpose community.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
I would say, if you're thinking of switching, just do it!
The thought of the leap is scarier than the leap itself. Nothing is irreversible, you can always even switch back if you want! Also, it's a journey, so don't feel scared if you're not doing exactly what you expected straight away or if there are times of uncertainty.
Just go with the flow and you'll find a way to make it work.
To find out more about On Purpose, visit www.onpurpose.uk.com.
What lessons could you take from Parita's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.