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Book Review: How to "Work On Purpose"

Ever wanted to work in a job at the intersection of passion and purpose? If yes, you’re not alone. If you don’t know how to do it, you’re not alone, either – sometimes deciding how to make a change is just as Work_on_purpose
challenging as figuring out what you want to do.

Enter Work on Purpose, an Echoing Green publication that profiles five social change makers and their journeys to craft careers with meaningful impact. While the profiles may be interesting to students of social entrepreneurship at any age; they are designed for use by emerging professionals. 

The secret to success recommended by authors Lara Galinsky and Kelly Nuxoll is a simple formula: Look into your heart to clarify your passion and interests, chart a plan with your head and then hustle to make it happen. Or to keep it simple: heart, head, hustle.

In case you have trouble visualizing how the format works in action, the book includes case studies of five Echoing Green fellows – how they found their passion, how they found a way to incorporate their interests into their book, and the support and resources they were able to find to fulfill their goals. It’s a topic the authors know well: Echoing Green regularly invests in and supports emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions. Since 1987, Echoing Green has invested nearly $30 million in seed funding to almost 500 social entrepreneurs and their innovative organizations, including Teach for America, City Year, and SKS Microfinance.

I interviewed one of the Echoing Green fellows profiled in Work on Purpose.
Socheata Poeuv is the founder and chief executive of Khmer Legacies, a nonprofit organization in New Haven that documents the Cambodian genocide through videotaped testimonies. Socheata is a visiting fellow at the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University, and was born in Thailand after her family fled Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge.

I won’t give away Socheata’s own journey and her experience of heart, head and hustle – you really should read this book – but here’s a window into her experience:

Have you ever felt any pressure not to pursue your passion?

Absolutely. That’s like asking me “are you the daughter of Asian parents?” My mother’s dream for me was to be a dentist because she has a nice dentist. She loves him.

To some degree, my parents still don’t understand what I do. That I don’t work for a company. That I don’t make a product. The idea that I can find support for my work through individuals who generously donate their money to support to social missions. That whole idea is foreign to my parents.

How would you recommend getting started to someone who wants to pursue a passion?

Take a look at the problems in the world that matter to you—what emotionally connects with you? What do you think about a lot? What do you read about in books, magazines, articles?

Think about the skills and areas of expertise that you bring to bear. Even if you don’t know what skills you have to offer, that will become clear over time. For me, I was looking for the intersection of what mattered and where my skills were—that helped me identify the problems to solve.

Is there anything not in the book that you think people need to know?

There are a lot of struggles in each and every one of our stories. There’s a lot of uncertainty.  And a lot of doubt sometimes. We wonder “How can we measure the impact of what we are doing? How can we see the tangible result of what we are doing?” We can’t measure our performance on a balance sheet. I think when you work for or create an organization that takes on a social problem, you take on a huge sense of responsibility that often feels greater than you might experience in the corporate world.

The question of “am I doing enough?” is endemic in the world of social entrepreneurship. Is what I am doing actually making a difference, and how do I know that?

Any actionable piece of advice?

The book focuses on the founders of social entrepreneurs, you see the cowboys – the people who started organizations. But there is a community that exists underneath all of these organizations and that supports their efforts. The thing to ask yourself is not “How do I start an organization?” but “How can I help? How can I get active in something I care about?” It’s not about starting a new career path; it’s about aligning your values with how you spend your time.

How can I converge my values with how I spend my time? That is the bottom line of the book; it’s not about how to start something new. It is about how to contribute.

 Work on Purpose is available through Amazon beginning April 19, 2011


Are You Ready for New York?

I moved to New York City over three years ago. I'd lived in DC and Philadelphia before, but it took me many months to navigate the city. It took me two months to figure out that cabs with a light on in the middle were empty, a year to learn about alternate street parking for cars (for friends who drive into the city), and one midnight trip on the subway to learn that different stops on the same street can land you in very different neighborhoods. (If you're visiting or new in town, check out for great directions and time estimates for travel)

Living and working in Manhattan can be complicated. As I'm based here, I offer my NYC Job Seekers Meetup for newcomers and veterans of the Manhattan employment market. I also recommend Vicki Salemi's book Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York for emerging professionals seeking their first gig in Gotham.

A former recruiter at KPMG, Vicki recently gave a fabulous talk to my MeetUp group. I asked if she'd share the following quiz with you--for those of you deciding whether to move to New York or not...

What’s Your NYC-ability?

That’s right. I’m talkin’ your Manhattan mojo and moxie. The fire in your belly that simply says it’s NYC or bust, baby! Are you truly ready to become a Gotham gal? Or are you a shrinking violet and more comfortable in the country than the big city? It’s pop quiz time, diva!

1. The thought of getting on a crowded subway during rush hour where it’s literally flesh on flesh with odors of pickle breath or random briefcases shoved into your back is

a. Part of the New York experience! What an invigorating way to start the day. For real.

b. Less than ideal, but hey: If it’s the fastest way to get to work, I’ll have to deal.

c. Gross. I’ll walk or take the bus instead, thank you very much.

2. Paying $1,500 in rent, $15 each day for lunch, $4.50 in subway fares, not to mention other expenses is

a. Worth it. You get what you pay for and NYC is worth every penny.

b. A travesty, but hey: Even though I’ll be broke, at least I’ll be happy.

c. Absurd.

3. The idea of paying a ton of money to live in a tiny apartment with two roommates, a makeshift wall, and the occasional mouse is

a. Your typical no-frills housing situation. Bring it!

b. Ick, but still worth it in order to have my shiny new life.

c. Gross and unacceptable.

4. This Thursday night you can either jet downtown to a cocktail party at a gallery opening, gallivant uptown to a private industry event at a museum, go to happy hour in the Meatpacking District, catch a celebrity book signing at Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue, or chill at home.

You want to

a. Do it all! But alas, that’s not possible. So you’ll pick two events that are closest to each other, like the book signing and museum soiree, courtesy of a quick trip on the 6 train.

b. Take a deep breath and then focus on one event, like the cool gallery cocktail party. Ooh la la!

c. Chillax. Home sweet home all the way.

5. As you’re crossing the street and a messenger on a bicycle speeds past a red light, almost literally knocking you down to the pave- ment, you...

a. Curse him out at the top of your lungs.

b. Shake your head in disbelief and chalk it up to another day as a pedestrian.

c. Curse the dude in the loudest voice possible in your head, curse the city, and make your exit as soon as possible.



Mostly As: Congratulations! A magnificent Manhattan life awaits and you’re clearly more than ready to bite into the Big Apple. The question though: Is it ready for you?

Mostly Bs: You’re almost there. It may take time to feel com- pletely ready to take on the land of the bright lights coupled with roaches, ridiculous rent prices, and a maxed-out social life. Be patient and realize that perhaps you should take baby steps by liv- ing in one of the boroughs.

Mostly Cs: New York City? Fughettabout it. Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but since you didn’t exactly pass the test, there’s no need to push it. If you force it, you’ll be unhappy and home- sick. New Yawk isn’t going anywhere and will be here when you’re ready for its magic.

Find yourself in the A or B category? Let us know how we can help...

The Six Reasons You'll Get the Job (Learn 'Em in NYC 10/14)

My friend and former colleague Elisabeth Harney Sanders-Park has just co-written her second book, the 6 Reasons Why You'll Get the Job (Penguin). I am pleased to announce that the NYC Job Seekers 6 ReasonsGroup, the grassroots job search group that I host in Manhattan, will be offering a special four hour workshop with Elisabeth and her co-author, Debra Angel MacDougall, the morning of October 14, 2010.

There is no cost to sign up. For additional details--including hours and location of the event--please sign up for the MeetUp group and RSVP.

Hope to see you there!

Networking: Why "Who You Know" Doesn't Count

This is my contribution to this month's Career Collective offering. Career Collective is a community of bloggers that gather together each month to share thoughts on a common topic. Up this month: Strategies and best practices for networking.Networking

Last week, I wrote about visiting my twin nieces at a summer camp which teaches leadership skills. They had a great experience. Now that they are home, they are setting goals of their own. And one of them--perhaps the most widely publicized one--is to see who can have the most friends on Facebook. At last count, they are in the 700's.

How many friends can you have? And how many is too many? Is it better to have the widest network possible? Or a small circle of trusted allies?

Several years ago, a friend shared with me an anecdote that has shaped my opinion on the dilemma ever since. My friend was the golf coach at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the friends he made during his time there was the late Walter Annenberg, former Ambassador, media mogul and founder of TV Guide.

During a round of golf, my friend was discussing his fundraising strategy with Mr. Annenberg. "It's not what you know, it's who you know, right?"

Mr. Annenberg shook his head; "No. It's who knows you back that counts."

Who knows you back? Who are the people that will return your calls, vouch for you, and help you out in a pinch? This, to me, is the essence of what a good network is--and the reason why I don't accept all friend and connection requests on LinkedIn or Facebook. I know the people I will know back. You?

Here are the other posts from Career Collective, read 'em and reap the benefits of their expertise.

  • 5 Little Secrets About Networking, @Careersherpa
  • Networking: Easy as 1, 2 , 3, @WorkWithIllness
  • How to Take the Intimidation Out of Networking, @heathermundell
  • Networking for the Shy and Introverted, @KatCareerGal
  • A tale of two networkers, @DawnBugni
  • Introvert or Extrovert: Tips for the Job Search No Matter Which 'Vert' You Are, @erinkennedycprw
  • Networking for Job Candidates Who Hate Networking, @heatherhuhman
  • Networking? Ugh! @resumeservice
  • Network, Network, Network, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes
  • 3 ways to make networking fun for introverts and extroverts, @Keppie_Careers
  • Grow Your Career Networking Seeds Organically, @ValueIntoWords
  • Networking: It's a Way of Life, @WalterAkana
  • Social Media Networking & Your Career, @GayleHoward
  • Networking for the Networking-Phobic, @JobHuntOrg