Working for a company has gotten a bad rap, and trust me I understand why. Sitting in a cubicle eight hours a day, working for micro-managing bosses, dealing with over-sharing co-workers, for benefits that don’t include retirement, and minimal chances for a raise - aren’t exactly the career hallmarks that we dream of. But for me, working in an organization offers a stability that isn’t available when working freelance. And not just financial stability but a community and a routine that allow for the development of habits and skills that I find incredibly valuable.
So, without the appetite for the risk associated with traditional entrepreneurship, but the desire to strike out own my own - what was I do to? What was I? For a few months I wondered if I was a social intraprenuer, that was until I realized that I was a actually a mission driven intraprenuer.
Heralded as the most valuable employee by the corporate sector in 2014, the concept of social intraprenuership found traction with many organizations and thought leaders, including The Aspen Institute and even Richard Branson himself. Characterized by employment in a multi-national corporation with thousands of employees, the social intraprenuer is oriented towards social good and having a positive impact on the world but exists inside profit motivated organizations.
But for the 10% of the American workforce already employed by mission driven organizations,where the innovation isn’t about the insertion of social good priorities but rather management and administration, intraprenuership looks different.
Consider the case of Housing Works Thrifts Shops. Originally a service organization providing housing, job training and medical services for those with HIV/AIDs Housing Work was home to a small team of intraprenuers, who brilliantly structured their budget to include seed funding for what would become the House Work Thrift Stores. A chain of profitable thrift shops which have gone on to help ensure the long term sustainability of the Housing Works program.
Or the story of a nearly thirty year old environmental organization, with 250 employees, whose CEO hires an ambitious entrepreneur to join the team and build out a new program, that ends up becoming a hallmark of the institution’s brand, and a real catalyst not only for fundraising but for scalable solutions with a global impact.
It’s clear that mission driven intraprenuers are critical for social sector transformation. But how do you know if you’re a mission-driven intraprenuer or just in need of new job? Here are five signs to look for.
- You already work for a mission-driven organization. Do you work for a non-profit? Or a benefit corporation? Or another type of social good company? This is the first step in self-identification.
- You like the stability of working for an established organization. Isn’t it nice to have a paycheck every two weeks? And health insurance for you and your partner? I don’t know about you but some part of me enjoys the stability of having a core group of colleagues that I see Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm. While it’s not popular to say - and even harder to find, I believe that traditional jobs can offer a psychological peace that comes from knowing that all my bills will be paid.
- You’ve changed jobs frequently, but have stayed in the social impact sector.Frustrated? Welcome to the club. According to Opportunity Knocks 2011 report on non-profit employee engagement over half of those surveyed intend to leave their current organization within two years. Most employees are seeking better pay and opportunities for leadership, Why? Because they want to help their organizations have a bigger impact and believe that they have a management solution that could help. This sincere desire to build a more effective organization is a key sign that you’re a mission driven intraprenuer.
- You’re entrepreneurial but have only a moderate appetite for risk. And that’s ok. While America loves and glorifies entrepreneurship, it’s also been shown that people who are incredibly successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common, they come from rich families. For those of us whose financial safety net is more tenuous - entrepreneurship comes with some incredible and unpalatable risk. In fact, when you have children, rent or a mortgage and school debt, financial risk isn’t only unpalatable, but irresponsible.
- Your colleagues see you as a leader, even if you don’t have direct reports.Even if you haven’t been nominated for the Employee of the Year award, the behavior of your peers and colleagues can tell you a lot about how you’re perceived at work. Are you invited to help teams with projects that aren’t part of your purview because of an internal perception of your expertise? Do you get invited to be a part of internal advisory groups or employee lead initiatives?
If these all sound like you - then I’m honored to tell you - you might just be a mission driven intraprenuer.
Let the adventure begin.