The Journey to a Career Led by Purpose

Tools and tips to help you define your purpose and start navigating your purposeful career.

by Maylis Bezuidenhoudt, November 16, 2021
social innovation management

I always wished I was one of those people who knew what they wanted to do and be. I envied how they would have their goals lined up and be running towards them. For me, it was not a run but rather a slow and aimless walk. 

I did not have a map, nor did I have the compass. Then suddenly, COVID arrived and the whole world was scrambling to find their “new normal”, like ants trying to find the bowl of sugar, and I was no longer walking but rather running aimlessly. 

In a way, I am grateful for this forced moment to figure out where I was going and what I wanted to do. I had a good job in recruitment but knew it was not my passion. My spare time was crammed with what energized me - volunteering in a nonprofit called Great Girls, which helps youth development for young South African girls. It was not sustainable, and I needed to find a way to merge my passion and my work – but... How to start?

Firstly, there was relief in knowing I was not alone. “Nearly two-thirds of US-based employees [McKinsey] surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life.” However, this also meant there were a whole lot more ants scrambling to find the sugar bowl than I thought. How could I set my skills apart? 

Secondly, I needed to find a way to transition my career from the world of recruitment to the world that filled my passion and my  purpose. It took some serious searching to find how my new career would look, but I am glad I went out of my comfort zone as now I am where I want to be in my career. I took comfort in knowing that whatever was chosen today could change in the future and that is ok! 

Lastly, in a recent webinar Pauline Ndonga, Amani Institute’s Senior Program Manager, gave some helpful tools and tips to help set personal goals for career development.

It all begins with defining your purpose. 

Having a defined purpose helps you stay grounded in disruptive times, it helps trigger motivation to make a difference and it broadens your range of career possibilities. For example if your purpose is to make the world a happier place by helping people build purposeful careers then you could be a career counselor, a teacher, a mentor, an entrepreneur leading purpose-driven organizations - the list goes on. Having a career lead by purpose makes it easier to see what your transferable skills are and to change sectors. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you find and define your purpose: 

  • What impact do I want my work to have on people?
  • What impact do I want my work to have on the society and communities I live in?
  • What impact do I want my work to have on the planet?
  • Where is change needed most? 
  • How can I contribute to that change?
  • Where are my strengths and skills needed most?

Create a road map to help navigate your career journey

You need to look at what you are doing now; look at where you want to go; then make a plan to bridge them. Ask yourself “what does growth or change mean for me?” or maybe even look at what your strengths are now (here is an article to help you if you need). As Pauline shared “being unique is only as good as how you make it useful in the world” so really dive into the exercise to maximise its value! 


Bridging the gap can be harder than expected but with tools like the SMART framework, as overused as they might sound, make a HUGE difference. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) helps you identify your big goal and distill it into smaller practical steps or actions that you can take and ease your path towards achieving the goal. Below is a table that can help you with SMART goal setting:


If you too feel like you are walking but with no compass or map, then you might be reassured in knowing that there are paths and programs out there that help you navigate your career. I invite you to read about Amani Institute’s Social Innovation Management Program, a course that provides you with the tools, insights, and network to help you run towards your unique goals. 

On your mark... get set... go navigate your career with purpose! 

Link to apply to the next digital edition of the program: 

Scholarship Deadline: 13 December 2021 

Final Application Deadline: 10 January 2022