Careers Beyond Profit: ‘Ethical’ Careers
A GUIDE TO CAREERS BEYOND PROFIT
How do you define ‘ethical employment’? 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’. Here 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.
Making a difference – in any sector
Defining your values
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:
- 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’
- For each, try to briefly define what ‘good’ was done.
- Consider the definitions of ‘good’ you’ve just written. Are there any themes emerging which could help to pinpoint your values?
- 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.
Considering other aspects
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 consider your other career drivers, see our information on developing your career ideas.
‘Doing good’: outside of 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 http://www.do-it.org.uk/
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: http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/. A similar organisation also considering giving time and energy is http://www.givemore.org.uk/. A US-orientated equivalent, giving recommendations on charities to donate to is http://www.givewell.org/
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
There are many ‘badges’ for ethical practice, but none which will directly fit your unique set of values, interests and preferences. There’s nothing else for it, but to start to do a little research:
REARCHING USING AN ORGANISATIONAL WEBSITE
Use the following sections of an employer website to build a picture of their values and practices:
- 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.
Below are a sample of websites which (for a variety of different angles) seek to assess organisational ethics:
- www.amnesty.org.uk/business – deals with human rights issues in business, and encourages companies to commit to uphold them
- www.business-humanrights.org – independent, international non-profit organisation, set up in collaboration with Amnesty and leading academic institutions
- www.bitc.org.uk – Business in the Community exists “to inspire, challenge, engage and support business in continually improving its positive impact on society”
- www.corporatewatch.org.uk – independent research group, based in Oxford, investigating the social and environmental impact of large corporations
- www.ethical-company-organisation.org – aims to set “the benchmark for corporate social responsibility”
- www.ethicalconsumer.org – UK organisation encouraging individual ethical business choices
- http://ethisphere.com/wme/ – Ethisphere’s ‘World’s Most Ethical Businesses’ 2012 – 145 companies, 43 of which are outside the USA, including 8 UK firms
- www.eiris.org – Experts in Responsible Investment Solutions – independent research into corporate behaviour
Ethical Careers Day
Please click here to view our 2012 Ethical Careers Day brochure
Alumni ‘Ethical Careers’ profiles
In March 2012 we held a one-off pilot 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
This 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 www.ethicalcareers.org
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 below)
OXFORD CAREERS NETWORK
Log in to CareerConnect (the password protected area of our website) to access this database of over 2,300 alumni mentors. Reading about what they’ve gone on to do can be useful research, and the majority can be contacted (using the ‘contact mentor’ button) for further advice and support.
SUBSCRIPTION VACANCY WEBSITES
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):
- www.idealist.org – global search engine (use ‘United Kingdom’ in ‘Location’ for British jobs).
www.oneworldgroup.org/jobs Small international jobs site
- http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/st/jobs-ethical.html Refine and save your search for email updates
- www.lifeworth.com/ Jobs in responsible enterprise and finance
- www.ethicalperformance.com/recruitment/index.php International CSR and SRI jobs
OTHER USEFUL WEBSITES
- www.ethicalcareers.org Issues based UK site.
- www.socialenterprise.org.uk/ UK National body for social entrepreneurship.
- www.accountability.org/ - international organisation, aims to encourage corporate accountability
- http://community.eldis.org/ Learning and networking in international development.
- www.guardian.co.uk/business/ethicalbusiness Keep up to date with CSR developments.
- www.ethicalcorp.com Global business intelligence for sustainability and ethical development.
- www.csreurope.org/ Europe-focused CSR development news.
- www.ccbriefing.com News and analysis on responsible business.
The following e-books are available through SOLO- http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
- A better way to think about business: how personal integrity leads to corporate success, Robert Solomon
- Capitalizing on kindness: why 21st century professionals need to be nice, Kristin Tillquist
- Essentials of business ethics: creating an organisation of high integrity and superior performance, Denis Collins
- Ethics 101: a CEO’s guide to business ethics, Patrick M. Byrne
- Executive ethics: ethical dilemmas and challenges for the C-suite, Scott A. Quatro
- High performance with high integrity, Benjamin W. Heineman
- When principles pay: corporate social responsibility and the bottom line, G. M. Heal
17th May 2013
Have you ever thought about setting up a social enterprise? Grants are on offer to help you do just this! What are the Oxford University Social Entrepreneurship Grants? We currently have two levels of grants on offer, to support students, recent graduates (leaving a course in 2013) or staff members in exploring a social enterprise… Continue reading →
1st Mar 2013
Thanks to everyone who made it to our Careers Beyond Profit talk at OUSU (2 Worcester Street, off Gloucester Green) this week. Here are the notes and slides to try out at home: Careers Beyond Profit: How to Impress at Interview Next week: How to. . . decide if you need further study, 1-2pm, OUSU Continue reading →
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