Carys Roberts is moving on from Shared Assets. She reflects here on career choices and having a positive impact in the world.
Between entering the workplace and retiring, we can expect to work about 80,000 hours. What we choose to do with those hours has an enormous impact on the positive change we can make in the world: where we work and what we do is important.
But where we will have a positive impact isn’t just a function of the whether the organisation is doing good and whether the work is worthwhile: it’s also whether the work uses our strengths effectively and taps into our intrinsic motivation and interest.
I’ve been thinking about these things recently as I’ve decided not to continue past my trial period at Shared Assets. This hasn’t been an easy decision. I still hold the view that land is a crucial missing piece of the puzzle in understanding the knotty economic, social and environmental challenges the UK, and other countries, face. I believe that Shared Assets, through its existing work but also the work it will do as it grows, has the potential to be a powerful connector and teller of this story. The organisational culture is inspiring and the people who work at Shared Assets are fantastic (more on that below). However, in post I’ve found that despite being important, the Shared Assets mission to support people managing land for the common good – specifically natural, agricultural and open land, is not the right specialism for me. I’ve also come to realise that I enjoy research with policy development and advocacy at its heart, whereas the primary component of this role in the immediate future is building an evidence base.
Often we carry on down a track because we don’t want to look weak or stupid. But in my view this kind of decision is how things should work. If everyone switched the way they thought about ‘probation’ periods to thinking about a two-way trial period, there might be fewer people in jobs that didn’t use their skills or passions; employees might have a little more scope to establish a role that’s right for them; and organisations would be able to move on more quickly to the best person for the job rather than investing in people who end up leaving sooner. For mission-driven organisations, that can also mean having a greater impact. Staying at an organisation knowing it isn’t the right one is a waste of your own career hours, the organisation’s investment in people, and of potential for positive change in the world.
One of the best aspects of Shared Assets’ working culture is that we’re attempting to create a self-managing ‘teal’ organisation. That includes a level of openness and culture of self-reflection that I haven’t seen in any other organisation, and means that I can write a public blog like this one. Shared Assets is collaborative: rather than being competitive by default, we look for where we can add the most value to a broader movement for change. Working at Shared Assets, you manage your own time and – within the mission and of course working with partners and funders – your own programme of work. That doesn’t suit everybody, but for the self-starters, is a invaluable opportunity. The team is extremely kind, energetic, and are real experts.
I hope my successor is someone who values the working culture that Shared Assets is trying to create, and understands and is excited by the mission of the work. They’ll need to be analytical and enjoy developing an evidence base. They’ll need to be collaborative and enjoy working with a range of partners, often on quite long time scales, to develop high quality work. And they’ll need to be excited by the prospect of managing their own time and work.
I can whole-heartedly recommend this role to someone fitting the above description. I’m also very happy to speak with any potential candidates interested in knowing more about the mission, the nature of the work, what it’s like to work at Shared Assets, or why I’m moving on. Please do get in touch by email or twitter, and I look forward to seeing what the new Head of Research achieves in post.