Wednesday 16 January 2019

How to find a job that gives you a sense of purpose

Jessica Huie
Jessica Huie

Hazel Sheffield

Jessica Huie has every reason to be happy with her lot. She has made an extraordinary success of her life against all odds.

Expelled from school at 15 and a single mother by the time she was 17, Huie turned away from her path, threw herself back into her studies and climbed the ladder in PR, ending up with at Max Clifford Associates.

She would go on to represent high profile clients such as Samuel L Jackson and Mariah Carey.

In 2006, she went one step further and started her own business. She was looking for a card for her daughter one day and discovered a gap in the market for cards featuring people of colour.

Color Blind Cards propelled Huie to new levels of notoriety. She scooped up entrepreneurship awards including being named as a “35 under 35” in 2010 by Red magazine and awarded an MBE in the 2014 Birthday Honours list for services to entrepreneurship.

But by 2016, Huie felt something was missing. By then she had left Max Clifford Associates to start her own PR business focussed more on social and charity work, working harder than ever to build up a roster of clients including Hilary Devey from Dragons’ Den and Kelly Rowland, for her charitable work.

“I’d always been very ambitious and driven,” Huie tells The Independent, in what might be the understatement of the year.

“I was always a bit addicted to work.” That year, her father fell ill and Huie decided to take time off work to care for him. She was, in her own words, “ejected from my norm”.

While she was caring for her father, she started writing what she thought would be a book about building a personal brand but ended up becoming Purpose, published by Hay House in April, a book about listening to the inner voices telling you what you’re truly meant to be doing in life.

“It’s about why we should be doing what we love,” Huie says. “So many of us end up in roles or relationships that we don’t belong in. There’s that thing we’d love to do that feels out of our reach, it feels unattainable because it’s such a leap, but when we connect with what is important to us and we’re living truthfully, that’s where we make a difference.”

A whole industry has sprung up around helping people who feel unfulfilled at work. Last month, organisational psychologist Daniel Cable published Alive at Work, advocating for managers to take the lead in making their employees feel “zestful about work and about change”.

Those beyond the pale with the nine-to-five might prefer When to Jump, published in January and written by Mike Lewis, who has developed four steps for people to follow to pursue the career of their dreams.

“I’ve been leaping forever in different ways,” Huie says. “I’ve been in many situations where I’ve felt out of my comfort zone and had massive imposter syndrome. When I see that in women particularly, I can connect with it.”

The desire to help other women fulfil their potential and start businesses of their own is part of Huie’s decision to step away from her PR business and focus more on consulting and coaching. She already runs monthly workshops at the British Library to help small businesses raise their profile, but now the focus will shift to purpose-driven businesses.

“When I started Color Blind Cards, I discovered when you have an enterprise powered by meaning, there’s a momentum you have around your business that isn’t there otherwise,” Huie says. “People connect with that, it has a power to it, and it’s also fulfilling. It’s a very different experience running purpose-driven business to one that’s just about money.”

Huie also wants to do more writing. Putting everything down on the page was cathartic when she was grieving for her father, a remarkable man who moved to the UK from Jamaica in the Fifties and was the first non-white bus driver in Nottingham, despite also being a qualified engineer.

But it also reminded her that she had always loved writing. Her first job after having her daughter, Monet, was at Pride magazine, where she eventually became a staff writer after completing a degree in journalism from Middlesex University.

Huie says it can get harder to follow your dreams as you get older. “It’s scary because it’s that old cliché of the comfort zone,” she says. “The older we get, we have responsibilities, even if we know what that passion is.”

Getting out of the rut can require a change in perspective for people who feel their identity is wrapped up in their job. “That’s only a construct,” Huie says. “Our true value is in what we can contribute to the world and our ability to make our professional lives match with who we are.”

The key, she says, it to face up to your situation: “Be really honest with the fact that you’re not fulfilled and recognise that it’s not impossible to do something about it.”

Then: be brave. When Huie started Color Blind Cards, many people told her they had had a similar idea but never got around to doing anything about it. “I couldn’t leave my day job either – I had ballet lessons to pay for! But I decided to do it alongside my job, staying up late, taking calls in my lunch break. You start to edge out of your professional life and into your purpose.”

Huie recently had a taste of her own medicine. Her daughter Monet, now 19, had signed to Models One and was sent on a working trip to Dubai. When Monet came back, she said that rather than study law, she wanted to leave college and pursue modelling full time.

“I had to take some deep breaths because that wasn’t my plan for her!” Huie says. “But she’s happy. She was with me for lots of my adventures, which was great, because she was able to see that you can have an idea and make a success of it. It’s given her a sense of limitlessness."

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