Today’s young people are desperate to make a positive impact and are more likely to pursue social entrepreneurship as a career than ever before. But in the current competitive UK job environment, how is it possible to achieve this?
By Sonali Patel
On Wednesday 6th of February, HUB Islington hosted Discover Social Enterprise: Forge Your Own Path after University, a panel discussion looking at values-driven business as an alternative career path for talented and motivated young people. Social enterprise is often not marketed strongly at university; however, the demand for purposeful careers paths clearly exists and HUB Islington was greeted to a sell-out event.
Currently in the UK, 7% of social enterprises have directors under the age of 24. With the oldest being only 29, our speakers served as tangible examples of how a combination of innovative thinking, passion and drive can help you achieve your dream – a great encouragement for myself and other contemporaries in the audience. The panel consisted of four successful young entrepreneurs; Jack Graham, Founder of Year Here; Henry Morris, Founder of upReach; Simon Moss, Co-Founder of The Global Poverty Project and Christina Rebel; Founder of 2Pueblo.
The lively conversation was facilitated by Shiv Malik, an investigative journalist for the Guardian, and covered a discussion on the politics of social enterprise as well as practical advice for getting involved. All speakers agreed that today’s young people are more entrepreneurial, partly in response to the poor job prospects they face coming out of university. Christina from 2Pueblo stressed that the best time to be disruptive in the job market is at a time of crisis.
Simon Moss from The Global Poverty Project highlighted another reason why social enterprise is so appealing. By using market forces to tackle the complex issues we are facing today, it fills a social gap that the market does not currently meet. It is also more sustainable than the charitable model. However, recent government investment in the sector through the Big Society has had minimal noticeable impact according to the speakers. They agreed that efforts should be concentrated more on developing the market-readiness of social enterprises to ensure investment is utilized effectively.
Financial stability persisted as an important theme. Social Enterprise UK (2011) quotes that “the single largest barrier to the sustainability of social enterprises is access to finance, with 44% of respondents saying that they are still hampered by the availability and affordability of finance.” Even for those not wanting to start their own social enterprise but instead be involved in an existing one, they face having to take on unpaid internships or low wages.
However, what radiated from the speakers was a sense of purpose and desire to create social change, with the commercial gains appearing less important. While investments in money, time and effort were large at first, this was offset by having a job with a social impact. The fact that TeachFirst was one of the top graduate employers this year is definitely a sign of youth wanting to give meaning to their life
So, what can you actually do to gain the skills and expertise to succeed in the social enterprise sector? A range of useful tips emerged from the conversation.
- Connect with others who think like you – go to events, join co-working spaces and utilise the thriving social entrepreneur network London has to offer. HUB London provides many opportunities to do this.
- Be proactive. Don’t sit around waiting for responses to job applications – go out and learn a new skill to show you are passionate to be part of this sector.
- Your CV has 15 seconds to catch the attention of a recruiter – to stand out, include examples of tangible achievements. Entering into My Kinda Crowd’s challenges (challenges which require you to think of innovative ideas) is a great way to show you are entrepreneurial to potential employers.
- Think you have a good business idea? Test this out by applying to UnLtd grants to fund your seed idea.
- Be determined – it’s not all fun and games and sometimes you might be working 14 hour days. Remind yourself of your goals and why you are doing this.
As a recent graduate myself, I found that the event was informative, engaging and most importantly inspiring. It was clearly filling a niche for which youth were craving. Alongside the HUB’s newly launched student membership rate, I hope this is the start of an increased investment in the future entrepreneur community and continued facilitation of positive impact in our community.