Below is the transcript for our podcast Work on Purpose, A New Career Book From Echoing Green's Lara Galinsky. You can listen to the show here.
AMY POTTHAST: Welcome to the Careers for Impact Podcast from Idealist.org, moving people from good intentions to action. I'm Amy Potthast, Director of Career Programs at Idealist. In today's episode Lara Galinsky, Senior Vice President of Echoing Green, chats about her inspiring new career guide for social impact work called Work on Purpose. Each chapter of Work on Purpose asks key questions for career seekers and illustrates these key questions in the lives of Echoing Green members. It also offers a place for notes and the end so you can jot down reflections from your own life.
Lara Discusses the central message of Work on Purpose: Finding work that uses heart + head = hustle, and she shares the stories of the five people who illustrate this message. First, Cherly Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, who graduated from medical school and the Kennedy School of Government who chose social justice over medicine. Second, Mark Hannis, founder of the Genocide Intervention Network, and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors who discovered as a college student that genocide still occurs and that he could mobilize action to end it. Third, Mardie Oakes, founder of Hallmark Community Solutions, combined her background in architecture, community housing, and finance to develop housing for people with special needs. Fourth, Socheata Poeuv, creator of the film project "Khmer Legacies, which documents interviews between Khmer Rouge survivors and their adult children. And finally, Andrew Youn, founder of the One Acre Fund. Andrew started out in a corporate consulting job but later used his business skills to develop a market system for farmers in a region of Kenya to prevent annual famines.
AMY: Welcome to the show, Lara!
LARA GALINSKY: Thank you very much, Amy!
AMY: I'd like to start out by having you introduce yourself and Echoing Green in general.
LARA: My pleasure! Once again my name is Lara Galinsky and I'm the Senior Vice President at an organization Called Echoing Green which most people assume is an environmental or sustainability focused organization. And in one way you could say that we are, but we're actually issue-area agnostic. We seed social change organizations around the world and try to build an ecosystem of change-making that engages key populations to push forward bold ideas to make the world a better place.
We're most well known for our seed fellowship program: The Echoing Green Fellowship, where we help support the launch of about 15 to 20 social change organizations across the world every year. We also provide start up funding and technical support. We've funded about 500 individuals who are launching organizations in 42 countries and many of them have grown to scale such as Teach for America, City Year, and Public Allies, and others around the world.
AMY: Wow that's incredible! And when you say funding for key audiences to make change, who are the people being identified.
LARA: Sure, yeah. So we - in building this ecosystem of change-making -- we identify key relations that we are think are critical to engage to help push forth the work of social innovators. One of them is exactly why we wrote the book which is young people who are making career decisions now and figuring out how they want to show up in this world. And the reason why we think it's incredibly important to engage young people, people who are kind of in college who are kind of in their first ten years of developing their career.
In our research, and in my own personal research, we have found that there are tens of thousands of social entrepreneurs in the world. But we believe there are tens of millions of young people who want to have a meaningful impact driven career. If we can help inspire and provide frameworks to young people as they're going through the career pathing process then we're - especially those on the edge who don't know what to do - providing inspiration to them. It's also sort of legitimizer as decisions are made around the kind of path one will take--then we believe that they are a worth contribution to the field.
AMY: I totally agree. In our work at Idealist we found that over and over again that the onramp to social impact careers is just so hidden among so many choices. I'm really excited that you guys have developed this book, which I think clearly lays out five different stories about people who have found their trail head, so to speak.
LARA: Yes, exactly!
AMY: Do you want to introduce Work on Purpose?
LARA: Our Echoing Green second book is called Work on Purpose. It tells the story of five change makers. In particular these are five people that I personally know well because they are in the immediate Echoing Green family. It explains a framework of how you can have an impact-driven, meaningful career that optimizes ones impact.
What's significant about the stories is that it doesn't paint an easy picture. It's not all, "Okay so I graduated," and then, "here I am maximizing my potential." It actually talks about the ups and downs, the internal struggle as well as the external struggle around career pathing. In a way it reflects a lot of the stories I've been hearing from young people around the country. In some ways the career pathing process is an entrepreneurial process.
By telling these stories we're hoping to provide a framework as well as inspiration to these tens of millions, hopefully [laugh], of young people who want to have an impact in the world but don't have the resources to help them.
AMY: So I'm curious, when you say that "the career pathing process is an entrepreneurial process," what do you mean by that? Does it apply to the heart + head = hustle?
LARA: Yeah and in some ways it's funny. I think that it's an entrepreneurial process in that, especially in the change making sector, people aren't necessarily recruiting on campus. There's not necessarily a whole big infrastructure that gets you from point A to point B to point C. So it's entrepreneurial in a sense that one is kind of looking at the landscape and digging up opportunities and then putting themselves out there.
There's an element of risk taking in going for it; but traditionally - and I'm wondering if you, Amy, have experienced this yourself in your work with young people in impact driven careers - that there isn't a lot of reflection baked in to the traditional career pathing process.
AMY: Yeah, for sure.
LARA: Which we believe is a loss. We believe that if one can just spend a little bit more time thinking about, "What's really important to me?" The premise becomes very simple.
AMY: I don't want to pin a lot of blame on parents, but I feel like parents and maybe the media are kind of in a rush to see their children succeed in a certain sense.
AMY: And I kind of felt a conflicted feeling from my parents; my mother raised me saying I could be anything I wanted. Yet when I graduated from college my first job was at a convenience store and I found out very quickly that that was not the case.
AMY: So the dominant focus is selling your skill set to the highest bidder along with your education. So if you've got a really good education, you don't have the time to think about how you want to use that education after school. You should've done that thinking in school and if you've graduated and you're still not sure of what you want to do in your life then it's kind of seen as a shortcoming if not a tragic downfall.
LARA: Yes, that's exactly what our research also found. The societal definition of success is often through how much money you make and perhaps how much power you hold. Although I do think social change jobs are becoming more and more mainstream, they're just more difficult to find because there is such a diversity. There is an education aspect to them but also there is a kind of permission component that is critical in this process.
AMY: So I'm thinking specifically about the stories in Work on Purpose. Andrew started his corporate job, and he ended up gaining a lot of valuable insights and skills from it, but he quickly realized that that wasn't the direction that he wanted to go in, and the same with Cheryl as well.Cheryl's story was about starting a medical career but during her coursework she found out what she was actually interested in. Do you want to talk more about that?
LARA: Yeah sure and you know, no regrets right? Cause every turn, every stop helps you become more informed and I think that's what was found in every story that was in Work on Purpose.
There's a chapter called "Life Out of Whack" in the beginning of the book and every single person, no matter who, when, why and where has experienced life out of whack moments. And naming it and explaining sort of how for these five people who if you met them now you'd say, "Wow! How'd you get there?" Well guess what, they had moments and bad decisions where they were living someone else's dream for themselves and it's very hard to turn away from that. But if they actually had stopped and thought about it they would realize that they felt miserable.
What I'm hoping to put out there is that it's not okay to feel miserable in your role and that if you "work on purpose" you'll feel like your getting the most of the things that you want and need. It just requires you to think through how can you syn your heart and your head? How can you sync what moves you deeply? How can a role or institution nurture you both of them at the same time that when you're out of whack? You are like, in Andrew's story, you are just working with one piece, and in his case it was his head. He was working for a wonderful consulting firm he said but his heart wasn't engaged at all and therefore he felt empty. There's a magic in syncing your heart and your head. In our equation it's very simple: Heart + Head = Hustle, and for us hustle equals impact.
AMY: And I think that in the book you describe hustle as feeling like you're "in the zone"? Maybe like a joggers high or something like that?
LARA: [laughs] Yes. I mean, not every moment is going to be like that, right? That's just not realistic. There should be moments when you're more engaged then feeling miserable. And it looks different in the zone, the hustle looks different for different people.
Take Marty, for example. Her hustle was that she had more energy then she ever could imagine. She had less responsibility in her previous jobs, but she had no energy. Now she's taking on a really big issue of providing appropriate beautiful homes for people who were being de-institutionalized in the state of California. Really big money, big issue, big politics, but she has more energy then she has ever had. So that's her hustle. And it's different for different people.
AMY: I really liked the way talked about Marty, how her different experiences became different circles in a Venn Diagram. So she started working out in housing development?
LARA: Yeah, that's right - she was an architect first.
AMY: And then went to work in...
AMY: And then she sort of found a place where all those circle, her expertise, her passions and her experience all kind of fit together in developing housing for people who were having to leave the mental institution.
LARA: That's exactly right. The heart + head = hustle can also be visualized in a Venn Diagram. That you're heart is one circle, and your head is another circle, and where they overlap is your hustle; and for Marty all those circles came together in personal experience.
So many times in our life we operate our personal life and work life as a sort of separate - never do they touch, right? So we have these walls between them. But what if we open that door and allow some of our personal experiences to inform what we think is important?
AMY: So a couple of people that you write about, like Mark and Socheata, really reach into their own family histories to help them determine what was the most meaningful to them, and I don't think with either of them that it was a conscious decision. Like in Mark's case, he was going to focus on his grandparent's involvement in the Holocaust and therefore would go on preventing genocide. Socheata, on the other hand, went on to explore what happened with her Khmer Rouge, but in both cases their heart ended up being deeply connected to their families' histories.
LARA: Yes, that's exactly right. That's another lesson that has been really interesting for me. Like you Amy, I'm sure people come and ask career advice from you personally. And what's really interesting for me, kind of over the years, talking to hundreds of young people around their own careers, I kind of often ask about peoples' families: What do you're parents do? What did you do in school? Whose career do you admire?
And what's so interesting is that people can answer these questions, but, in general, not terribly well. So that is kind of our early experiences around careers and jobs and professions and all that stuff. People didn't go back to those early experiences to help them form them now, but yet there are defiantly clues. They're definitely clues and I think that it's a very worthwhile exercise to look at all those clues because it becomes in some ways like a pointer. [laughs]
AMY: And speaking of Mark, in reading his story we found something that we often find at Idealist: that when people want to move from their good intention to action it seems like the first step often requires finding allies and learning more. So allies in education. So I'm wondering from you're perspective, how those things can help in the deciding process and the entrepreneurial process?
LARA: Yes, one of the hallmakrs of the millennial generation, in fact, is networking with one's peers and building allies. Like Mark, finding people who can support you both formally and informally, and keeping in touch with them and allowing them to invest in you is a really good skill and a really helpful process. Hopefully, I've helped people in my life and I know the people Mark reach out to both philanthropically were helpful to him as he was refining his idea for the Genocide Intervention Network. He relied a lot on high level experts who had many, many, many more years experience on the ground to help him craft what eventually became a new organization.
AMY: So I'm really curious about you're writing process because the stories are so detailed both in terms of the concrete description of what's going on as well as what's going on in peoples head. Like did you spend a lot of time interviewing people? Did you follow people around as a journalist? Did you go to Kenya?
LARA: I wish I went to Kenya! I wrote this will Kelly Nuxoll. So Kelly and I were partners in this and so much of this is a result of sort of having a partner, someone you can go back and forth with. That really helps because it's so easy to get in your head. We actually started a whole different book [laughs]. We started a whole other book based on another idea and wrote a few chapters of it with the same people and read it and realized that it wasn't working.
AMY: What was that book about?
LARA: It was called "Be Bold," and it was about standing up and taking responsibility for a problem in the world and, while it was very inspiring, it didn't quite provide enough of a framework.
For this book, I decided that I wanted it to be completely story driven, but not a how-to book focused on moments of obligation that was really only one dimensional. I wanted something that was more three dimensional. So through a lot of interviewing, and we interviewed more people, then we had focus groups, then we worked with a ton of young people kind of in the target groups to help us come up with ideas. We had many different versions of the book. It was a long process.
The formula of Heart + Head = Hustle kind of came out of the stories, and each and every one of them kind of lived Heart = Head = Hustle in a very different way. It became very clear to me that while we were writing about social entrepreneurs, people who had started social change organizations. We wrote this for people who weren't all, "Yeah! I'm going to start a social change organization!", or, "Yeah! I'm going to check that change making box!" This is going to be more about the people who are kind of more on the edge, who weren't quite sure what going to be more about the people or are kind of more on the edge who aren't quite sure what they wanted to do. So hopefully it'll reach a broader audience.
And the fellow stories and this Heart + Head = Hustle provides a really good way to demonstrate how we all, every single person, can have a meaningful impact career that delivers the change they went in the world, but it doesn't take reflection. It does take a little bit of work. And it does take some bold action.
AMY: Yeah I just couldn't get over it. I know you're an amazing storyteller which is why I wanted to get you on this show as well as the last time that you guested on the podcast. I just I loved when I started reading this, I just loved that it was stories. I thought that was perfect.
LARA: Oh thank you so much! And we have the books available on our website. Also one can buy it through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other providers, but we also have an ebook that we have online that's very affordable and we're hoping that it becomes a useful tool for people who are in this wonderful process of figuring out what they want to do with their life.
AMY: Thank you so much Lara!
LARA: Amy, thank you so much for all the work that you do at Idealist and beyond to help, inform, inspire, and connect great people who want to do great things in their lives and providing the resources that they need to be able to do that. It's really great to connect with you.
AMY: Thanks Lara, you too. It's really great to talk to you.
LARA: Wonderful, thank you!
You can learn more about Lara Galinsky's book Work on Purpose by visiting EchoingGreen.org. To find more good things to do, check out the more than 12,000 volunteer opportunities on Idealist.org. Special thanks to Heather Alexander and Choleta Broadnax from Echoing Green. Today's show was produced with the help of Tim Johnson, our podcast intern. I'm Amy Potthast, thanks for listening. If you have enjoyed our podcasts please show your support by going to iTunes and leaving a rating and review for this episode and others you like. You can also send us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.