Work in Social Enterprises satisfying aspiration?

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1 Work in Social Enterprises satisfying aspiration? A discussion paper HECSU Prospects House Booth Street East Manchester M13 9EP August 2012

2 Graduate aspirations As students progress through university ideas about their futures often become clarified; general and specific goals and aspirations emerge. Notwithstanding debates about whether students are sufficiently engaged in their own career development whilst in HE, it may be assumed that they bring their learning, experiences, values and personal predispositions to bear on their thinking about career. In a year long study focussing on the attainment of (and satisfaction with) life goals of recently graduated young adults, Niemiec et al (2009) distinguish two types of life goals which they refer to as, extrinsic aspirations (that is, motivated by money, fame, image) and intrinsic aspirations (that is, motivated by personal growth, close relationships, community involvement and physical health). They found that when people attain intrinsic goals they experience more well being and less ill being and that this related positively to psychological health (that is, life satisfaction, positive affect). Thus it seems that attainment of intrinsic aspirations is associated with psychological health because those goals are closely related to satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. (Niemiec et al, 2009: 303) Further this research suggests that satisfaction with the achievement of extrinsic goals may be short lived as the pursuit of social and material advantage can result in feelings of relative deprivation and may actually run counter to basic (psychological) needs satisfaction. In 2011 HECSU conducted a survey to examine graduates experiences of the world of work 1. The survey, which explored graduates experiences of higher education, work experience and graduate employment, asked participants to review their current job role and describe the nature of the work and their position within the organisation. The survey also examined graduates experience of career learning in university and their ambitions for the future. This discussion paper will draw upon findings from the 2011 Real Prospects survey to examine what working in social enterprise(s) can offer students and graduates. Graduates want to make a difference, but they also want to progress their career. Social enterprises enable them to do both. The following case studies demonstrate how graduates career motivations prompt them to pursue a particular type of work. Making a difference Tom Tom is a health services manager. He studied politics for his undergraduate degree, and also has a master degree in health and public leadership. 1 The research was conducted by HECSU on behalf of Graduate Prospects as part of HECSU s Real Prospects research and development programme. HECSU s Real Prospects research and development programme explores the process of higher education and employability in order to understand how universities and graduate employers can better support their students and graduate employees. 2

3 After I graduated with my degree in politics I spent a year managing a bar before I decided to go travelling in Australia and New Zealand. While I was away I worked in bars and nightclubs, and returned to the UK fully intending to pursue a career in this field. However, while I was looking for a suitable job a close friend was diagnosed with leukaemia, which prompted me to volunteer for a charity which recruited donors for the bone marrow register. It completely changed my outlook and I decided I wanted to pursue a career in something I was passionate about. I completed an internship at another health charity and then applied for a job with a health services organisation. I m currently working in the strategy department, managing the business side of the organisation and supporting staff in their operational roles. I m passionate about my job and love the fact that I work for an organisation that makes such a difference. I think I d like to stay in the health/charitable sector, but I ll probably look to move into operational management because I find strategy a bit slow! Whatever I do next, my criteria for assessing new job roles will be: do I believe in what the organisation does? Does it make a difference? Am I passionate about it? Doing rewarding work Lucy Lucy is a community fundraiser. She has a degree in psychology. After I graduated I came home and was unemployed for four months until I got my driving licence which helped me to secure a temporary job working in the product development and marketing department of a frozen foods company. At the end of my first month the company offered me a permanent contract and I worked for the business for another six months until I was made redundant. While I was working for the frozen foods company I was also volunteering as an events organiser for a charity. Thanks to my voluntary experience I was able to secure another job as soon as I was made redundant, joining a mortgage broker as an events and campaigns assistant. While I was there I progressed into a new role (becoming an events coordinator), but unfortunately I was made redundant when the company closed down eighteen months later. I then had a month off before I found my current role working as a community fundraiser for a conservation charity (my dream job!). I ve been a fundraiser for almost two years now and I love my job, although I d like to move into a more senior community/fundraising role in the future. It s a volunteer facing role and I get to meet a lot of inspiring people. I really like working in a lively, proactive environment with like minded people; the organisation is very collaborative and they encourage you to work with other teams and go beyond your job role to learn new things. My job is very rewarding and I really feel that I am making a difference my job helps other people to do something amazing. 3

4 Something to believe in Laura Laura is a campaigns and policy officer for a charity. She has an undergraduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics, and a postgraduate certificate in campaigning. Not for profit While I was at university I secured an internship working for an MP in Parliament, and then when I graduated I went straight into a three month internship at a political consultancy in London. I gained really valuable experience working at the consultancy, but I had to finish the internship slightly earlier than planned because I was offered a paid position working for a Chamber of Commerce. I joined as an executive assistant, but was soon promoted to policy assistant and was offered the chance to spend one week a month on secondment at the British Chamber of Commerce. After about six months I realised that I wanted to continue with the policy and lobbying work, but I wanted to do it for something I believed in (such as a charity), so I started to look for another role. After about a month I found a role with a health charity and joined them as a campaigns and policy officer. I am still working for the same organisation two years later. I love knowing that I am making a difference and helping vulnerable people, but the salary isn t brilliant and there is a very flat structure at our organisation so there isn t really anywhere else for me to go. I d like to stay in campaigns and policy management, but I think I ll probably look to move to a bigger charity in the future. Jen Jen is a publications officer for a charity. She has an undergraduate degree in American studies and a masters degree in English and American studies. During my degree I spent two weeks shadowing a fundraising officer who worked for a charity which provided cancer care. After I completed my masters I got a place on a graduate training scheme with a PR agency, but after four months I realised it wasn t right for me so decided to look for an in house communications role instead. I specifically wanted to work for a non profit organisation and (after many applications) I was finally offered my current role as a publications officer. I ve been in my current role for about a year and a half now. I m responsible for writing, editing and producing all of the charity s publications, and I also provide general editorial support across the organisation. I really enjoy my job because I know the materials I m creating are making a difference to peoples lives, but the organisation itself is quite difficult to work for because it s slightly chaotic and doesn t really seem to have any kind of strategy. I d like to move to a more marketing based communications role in the future, preferably in a slightly more dynamic charity. Self Employment Andy 4

5 Andy is the assistant manager of a supported housing residence. He has a masters degree in geographical information science and a post graduate certificate in education (PGCE). After I completed my degree I spent a number of years working for a large multinational company before I decided to leave my job to go travelling and do some part time work. I used my time abroad to work out what I was wanted to do (and what I was good at) and decided I would like to become a teacher. When I returned to the UK I completed a PGCE and secured a teaching role. After I had been teaching for a while, I decided I needed to learn a bit more about other areas of education/children s welfare so I spent a couple of years in social services working with the family support team before I progressed into my current role in supported housing. I really enjoy doing something which makes a difference, but I find the work frustrating because the organisation is quite chaotic and colleagues are resistant to change so it can be difficult to resolve the problems. I plan to return to teaching in the near future, but in the longer term I think I need to set up my own business because I think it s the only way to achieve the job satisfaction and financial security I want. 5

6 What can social enterprises offer students and graduates? Employment opportunities I like working for an NGO rather than in the private sector. It s a cliché, but I feel like what I do makes a difference in society HECSU found that many graduates were dissatisfied with the careers guidance they received at university, complaining that careers services focused too much on students who wanted to apply to big graduate recruiters and corporate training schemes, and too little on students who want to worked for small or medium sized companies or not for profit organisations (Higgins & Redman, 2011). Graduates also felt that universities should introduce students to a wider variety of roles earlier on in their university career, arguing that, as full time, permanent employment is not always attainable (or desirable) for many graduates, careers services should do more to remind students that other forms of employment (such as self employment) are viable alternatives for graduates at any stage of their career. When asked about their job roles, HECSU found that graduates liked roles which gave them autonomy, responsibility, and variety (Higgins, 2011). They wanted their jobs to be challenging and interesting, enabling them to apply their skills and knowledge, and think critically and creatively about their work. Graduates also want to make a difference in their organisation, and like being able to see how their work is contributing to the success of their company, its clients or the local community. Brown et al (2010) argue that if developed nations are to continue achieving economic success in the future they will need to consider how their graduates will contribute to a low carbon economy and create jobs which add value to people s lives. They suggest that the most productive economies will be those in which rewards are determined by social contribution, rather than market competition or private gain. HECSU s research suggests that many graduates already seek to make a contribution through their work, and that it is not just those in helping occupations who are motivated by the desire to make a difference in their community. Respondents who described how they wanted to make a difference in society included: an accountant who worked for the NHS; a science researcher who worked with children to tackle eye disease; a policy officer who advised the government on social policy issues; a software engineer who developed technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; a project manager who worked for an international development agency; a social researcher who worked for a university; an IT project manager who worked for the NHS; a senior manager in the civil service dealing with fraud and cyber crime; a pharmacist who worked with the elderly; and an office manager who worked for a charity which supports the homeless. Other graduates described how they hoped to make a difference to society by making a contribution to their industry. One graduate engineer described how they hoped to leave something behind which will contribute (hopefully!) to improving the way power is generated in the country, while another explained why he chose to become a process engineer: 6

7 I feel like it s a useful application of physics; the things I do make a difference to the world, even if only a small one. Feedback from these graduates suggests that many universities are failing to recognise that students studying subjects other than those typically associated with social contribution (such as medicine or social care) might be motivated by a wish to make a difference in society. Graduates who express an interest in accountancy, law, business management or marketing are usually expected to secure jobs with commercial firms, but the tendency to conflate graduates career ambitions (e.g. the desire to become an accountant) with their career motivations (e.g. the desire to make a difference in society) risks limiting graduates career options. Universities need to remind graduates that they can choose where to work as well as what to do and that becoming an accountant and making a difference in society need not be mutually exclusive. What employment opportunities can social enterprise(s) offer? Opportunities for graduates who want to work for not for profit organisations to pursue careers in professions which are traditionally associated with commercial companies. Opportunities to engage with the challenges of running a business, but in order to benefit society rather than shareholders. Career development opportunities As a charity, the main limitation for my employer is money, especially for external training Many graduates who want to make a contribution to society pursue careers in the voluntary sector, but find that charities do not always offer many opportunities for career development or progression (Christie, 2008). Graduates who apply to work for a charity are no less ambitious than those who apply to work for a merchant bank; they have just chosen to pursue a different goal. HECSU found that graduates who sought employment in a charitable sector because they wanted to make a contribution to society were keen to develop their job roles and progress into senior positions, but struggled to access development opportunities because their employers lacked the time and resources to support their personal development, and were unable to offer graduates opportunities to progress into more senior roles. Graduates also noted that charities can be slow to adopt new business practices, and expressed frustration at their organisation s reluctance to try new things. Feedback from graduates suggests that careers activities which perpetuate the idea that large, graduate training schemes are the gold standard of graduate employment lead students who want to perform socially useful work to believe that they must choose to pursue either career success or a job they can feel passionate about. However, while organisations that do not run graduate development schemes may not be able to offer graduates a structured training programme or recognised career path, they do allow graduates to develop a broad range of skills, gain a wide range of 7

8 experience, and work closely with senior managers earlier in their careers (Hunt et al, 2007). What career development opportunities can social enterprise(s) offer? Opportunities to work in dynamic organisations, which have a clear business strategy and sense of direction Opportunities to get involved in start ups The benefits of working for a small or medium sized business Opportunities to develop expertise in a niche sector Opportunities to be innovative and develop new services which serve a social purpose Personal, social and professional development opportunities Students and graduates accept that extracurricular activities and work experience are central to achieving success in the graduate labour market (Higgins and Redman, 2011; Stevenson and Clegg, 2011; Tomlinson, 2008), but some students adopt an instrumental approach to these activities which inhibits the kind of engagement that facilitates the personal and social development which will enable students to secure fulfilling employment and make a meaningful contribution to the economy. McArthur (2011) argues that higher education should seek to develop workers who understand that work has a social and moral dimension, enabling graduates to challenge inequality and imagine different futures for themselves and others. What personal, social and professional development opportunities can social enterprise(s) offer? Opportunities for career learning. Introducing students to the idea of social enterprises early in their university career broadens their career horizons and allows them to explore the idea that work can be about more than just earning a living. It reminds them that different kinds of employers offer different kinds of employment opportunities. Opportunities for professional development. Setting up and/or managing a social enterprise at university enables students to develop their entrepreneurial skills, collaborate with colleagues, and develop their understanding of business processes such as financial management and marketing. oo0oo 8

9 References Brown, P., Lauder, H. and Ashton, D. (2010). The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs, and Incomes. New York: Oxford University Press. Christie, F. (2008). Career pathways for graduates into the voluntary/community sector. Manchester: HECSU. Higgins, H. (2011). Real Prospects 2011: Employers. Manchester: Graduate Prospects. Higgins, H. and Redman, J. (2011). Real Prospects 2011: Universities. Manchester: Graduate Prospects. Hunt, I., Hennessy, M., O Brien, E. and Sherry, R. (2007). The graduate and the SME, Education, Knowledge & Economy, 1:2, McArthur, J. (2011). Reconsidering the social and economic purposes of higher education, Higher Education Research and Development, 30:6, Niemiec, C. P., Ryan, R. M., and Deci, E. L. (2009). The path taken: Consequences of attaining intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations in post college life in Journal of Research in Personality, 43, Stevenson, J. and Clegg, S. (2011). Possible selves: students orientating themselves towards the future through extracurricular activity, British Educational Research Journal, 37:2, Tomlinson, M. (2008). The degree is not enough: students perceptions of the role of higher education credentials for graduate work and employability, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29:1,

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