Careers Beyond Profit: ‘Ethical’ Careers

An overview

Deciding how your own values and beliefs will impact on your career choice is a very personal consideration.

Some sectors are often associated with the idea of an ‘ethical career’, but we hope to provide an overview of both the obvious and less obvious sources which might meet your interest in developing a career which meets your ethical values.

Opportunities which relate to your values can be found in the public, charity and private sectors – and the overlapping areas between. See our chart for examples.

Defining your value

If you’re looking to ‘do good’ with your career, it can help to first consider what ‘doing good’ means to you. This can provide a useful career focus.

Try the following to help:

  1. Write a list of any of the following:
    • Volunteer or paid work that you’ve done which you consider ‘did good’
    • Causes that you actively support, or have done in the past
    • Individuals you know of who you feel ‘do good’ with their career
    • Organisations or companies you know of who you feel ‘do good’
  2. For each, try to briefly define what ‘good’ was done.
  3. Consider the definitions of ‘good’ you’ve just written.  Are there any themes emerging which could help to pinpoint your values?
  4. Perhaps some elements from the exercise resonate more with you than others.  This could be another clue to where your values lie – or perhaps helping to define other aspects of the work that you’re looking for.

What suits you?

As well as your values, there are many other aspects that make up the ‘ingredients’ for fulfilling work. A job which doesn’t suit you, even in a context which fits your values well, can be an unhappy prospect.  Take the time to think about:

  • Your skills – which do you like to use? What would you like to develop?
  • Your environment – buzzing and competitive? Supportive and personal? Concentrated and focused?
  • Your work-life balance
  • Location, salary

To investigate more about what would suit you see:

Doing good outside your job

Sometimes it’s not possible to find work, at least initially, which meets all your interests, skills and has the ethical impact that you’re looking for.  A good example is the field of Human Rights Law – there are many years of more general legal training and work ahead before you can begin to specialise in this application for your knowledge.  So how do you keep your values alive?


One of the best ways to connect with your values is to consider some volunteering around your other work/study.  You can see the variety of UK volunteering opportunities on Do-It.

Contact local ‘hubs’ to find out about more opportunities for voluntary work (if you’re here at the moment, Oxford Hub and OCVA  are good places to get in touch with, as well as the work centred around the council-owned community centres, and properties housing many local charities, such as the Old Music Hall on Cowley Road).


Becoming an active campaigner can involve anything from harnessing online and social media activity, right through to in-person support for meetings and demonstrations. Connecting with campaigning hubs (examples include 38 Degrees and Avaaz) can provide you with the opportunity to participate in organised campaigning, and many larger organisations will provide resources for those that would like to further the campaign on a local or regional level.


If you have the resources to donate financially, you can do a significant amount of good for the causes you care about. Individual giving can also be supplemented by working to encourage donation from those around you by organising fundraising events and sharing information.

Giving What We Can is an Oxford organisation dedicated to providing information and encouragement for those seeking to give effectively.  A similar organisation also considering giving time and energy is Give More.  A US-orientated equivalent, giving recommendations on charities to donate to is Give Well.


Creating change within an institution is something all of us do in work, even in a minor way. If where you are working initially doesn’t meet your values, perhaps your enthusiasm can begin to influence a shift. From connecting with like-minded staff to discuss ideas, to creating business cases for them, you might be surprised how much impact you could (diplomatically!) make.

Investigating an employer's ethics


  • Reading their annual report (often available on their website – environmental/sustainability reports have been required by law since 2006).
  • Reviewing their organisational values, behaviours or mission statement – often in the ‘about us’ section of their website
  • Researching their impacts and outputs – from learning how and if they share information with others, to evaluating the effects of their core work in light of your values.
  • Investigating their staff policies: often found near the vacancy section of their website. This might include details of their commitment to equality of opportunity, training and support, volunteering days, child-friendly workplace details and more.

Our resources

Careers Beyond Profit seminar series

In Hilary 2013 we held a weekly series of events, organised jointly with OUSU and Oxford Hub, covering tailored support for those seeking a career which matched with their values.  This covered everything from ‘How to Find Jobs that Suit You’, ‘How to Make the Most of Your Volunteering’ to ‘How to Impress at Interview’ and ‘How to Make Contacts’.

All the slides are available and downloadable online in our blog posts about careers beyond profit.

Alumni profiles: Ethical Careers Day

In March 2012 we held a one-off event bringing a huge range of professionals working for ethical goals together to speak.

As part of this we released a brochure online featuring 50 articles from alumni in a range of professions, sharing their experiences of navigating their careers. The majority are contactable through the Oxford Careers Network (see below).

The Ethical Careers Guide is a good read to get you thinking about the issues surrounding ethical employment, and includes valuable profiles of various career fields. It includes People and Planet’s Ethical Careers Service, which merged with the service.

Available at The Careers Service, or order online via the Ethical Careers website.

Other reference books available at the Careers Service include: Careers Un-Ltd: Another World is Possible and The Rough Guide to a Better World (see also the selection of e-books overleaf)


Log in to CareerConnect and choose ‘Ethical jobs’ under ‘Subscriptions’ to download the password and username for the following sites (serving the US, UK, Canada, Europe and wider globe):

External resources

The following alphabetical listing of websites provides a brief sample of research tools that may help you to investigate the policies and practices of particular companies.

It should be noted that they are drawn from a variety of sectors, and exist for a variety of different aims, so their relationships with (and perspectives on) companies may differ considerably. Some are independent organisations that are openly critical of major companies, while others are drawn from the business world, and will provide information on particular schemes and partnerships. They by no means provide absolute answers, but are hopefully useful for your investigations:


  • Idealist – global search engine (use ‘United Kingdom’ in ‘Location’ for British jobs).
  • One World Group – Small international jobs site
  • Guardian Jobs – Attracts a large number of organisations seeking to improve social outcomes, as a result of its paper ‘Society Jobs’ supplement
  • GlobEthics – Jobs in CSR and ethics/theology
  • Ethical Careers – International CSR and SRI jobs


Regular events

Recent News

  • Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship

    19th May 2015

    As part of its new Social Enterprise Series, the Oxford Hub hosts a workshop on 'Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship' on Tuesday of 4th week (19th May) from 6 to 8 pm at the Turl Street Kitchen. The workshop consists of two parts. Part 1 explains what social entrepreneurship is and how it differs from charities or… Continue reading →

  • Jacari Coordinator

    16th Apr 2015

    Jacari, Oxford’s oldest student-run Charity (Registered Number: 1108827), is currently looking for their next full-time Co-ordinator, responsible for managing the organisation through the academic year of 2015-16. This is paid leadership experience in the not-for-profit sector - a rare commodity! A full job description and person specification, as well as details of how to apply can be… Continue reading →

Source: Guardian: Ethical Business