Balancing Purpose and Profit in Your Career Search

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022
By AACSB Staff
Photo by iStock/PeopleImages
You don't have to sacrifice personal values in order to land a good paying job. Here are a few ways to find a balance between purpose and profit.

  • With some careful reflection and research, you can ensure financial stability while making a positive societal impact on the world. 
  • Identifying your values will help you find an organization that you will feel proud to work for.
  • Be prepared to ask questions of potential employers to ensure the right fit for you.

As a business school graduate, you’ve spent the last few years making informed decisions about your business education. You poured your time and energy into choosing between unique offerings across distinct programs, and you likely committed to a school with opportunities that align with your personal goals and morals. Perhaps your selection came down to future professors, student clubs on campus, or the school’s commitment to an impact-focused curriculum. You might have had a clear sense of your priorities before you started your degree, or your experience in business school has helped you clarify your sense of professional purpose.   

In either case, you will have to make an informed decision once again—this time as you embark on the job search. While you're looking for roles in which you can apply your acquired business and management skills, you will also want to integrate your values, career ambitions, and financial future into a single opportunity.   

Many people may mistakenly believe that it's impossible to make a profit and fulfill their higher purpose at the same time. However, these two objectives do not have to be at odds with one another. With some careful reflection and research, you can absolutely ensure your own financial stability while making a positive societal impact on the world. 

Identifying Your Values

For decades, business schools have taught their students to adhere to ethical practices when making decisions in their professional lives. Business ethics are carefully regulated and internationally recognized, and, for a long time, profit-driven entities prioritized these standards when developing their corporate strategies. Companies that conducted “morally right” business were appealing employment options for applicants seeking stable, entrepreneurial jobs where they could apply their education in the workforces. 

Now, however, young professionals like you want to belong to companies that integrate societal impact with their corporate strategies. Unlike business ethics, a company’s commitment to creating societal change is not measured by a common metric. 

The lack of ubiquitous impact standards requires new business graduates to conduct some soul searching, wherein they identify their own individual principles and values before applying for different job openings. These values are not limited to an individual's concept of positive societal change. Your values include your personal goals and the circumstances that motivate you to learn, grow, and continue developing as a business professional. 

Defining What Societal Impact Means to You

Start by assuming the role of an informed, conscientious applicant. Think about times in your academic career or personal life in which you were happiest and felt the most fulfilled. Make a list of the qualities that contributed to this feeling of fulfillment. These are your values. 

The items on this list can be broad, such as working for a company that contributes to the reduction of human suffering. Maybe you prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in a workplace. Or you want to travel and experience new people, places, and cultures. 

Other values might include: 

  • Helping other people improve their lives 
  • Reducing personal stress and burnout 
  • Protecting the environment
  • Having opportunities for promotion
  • Accessing mentorship and professional guidance 
  • Leading a sustainable lifestyle
  • Establishing flexibility in your work schedule and work-life balance
  • Belonging to a supportive team
  • Exercising autonomy over decisions at the workplace 
  • Experiencing intellectual stimulation

This list is not conclusive, but it will help jump-start your personal reflection. 

Identifying Employers Who Make an Impact

Your next step is to carefully assess how well your list of values overlaps with a company’s mission—as well as the financial package they offer to applicants with a business degree, whether undergraduate, MBA, or specialized master’s.

Here's a list of questions you might consider as you are researching the company on their website, on their social media profiles, in the news, or by talking with current employees or recruitment officers:

  • What is the company’s mission? 
  • Are there news articles, company memos, or blog posts that demonstrate the company’s commitment to its identified mission?
  • How does the company treat its employees? 
  • How does the company treat its consumers? 
  • Does the company have a diversity policy? Does this company prioritize diversity in its actions and hiring process? How? 
  • Does the company have a concrete corporate social responsibility unit? What causes are they committed to? What communities do they serve?
  • Does the CEO publicize the company’s efforts in and commitments to environmental, social, and governance issues? 
  • Does the company have sustainable business practices? 
  • Is this company committed to net-zero carbon emissions? 
  • Do they package their products in sustainable, eco-friendly materials? 
  • Does the company invest in privacy and data security for its consumers and employees? 
  • Do employees have a reasonable work-life balance? 
  • Do employees have opportunities for promotion and growth in their careers? 

Cross-reference the information that you find with your own definition of a fulfilling and satisfying job. After conducting this research, if you believe that this company shares your vision for a better world, it’s a good sign that you would feel contented and gratified working there. 

Aligning Profit With Purpose

After you have identified your core professional values, you must define what financial stability and comfort mean to you. Your desired salary will help you discern exactly which opportunities will enable you to incorporate personal values and economic well-being with your career trajectory. 

You should have confidence in your worth as a job candidate with a business education from an AACSB-accredited school. You have worked hard to get to this point; you deserve to have a fulfilling career that reflects your dedication to self-improvement, ethical business, and the improvement of societal and environmental conditions. Your continued commitment should also be compensated financially. You’ve invested in your education. Now you have to invest in your financial future while finding satisfaction in your career. 

The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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