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Why purpose is my most important career metric

Harsh Mishra, a Unilever young leader working as an area sales and customer manager in India, explains how he’s using his role to help improve sanitation and drive behaviour change.

Harsh Mishra
Harsh Mishra

Area Sales and Customer Manager, India

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Leading a career with purpose means doing work that makes a tangible and lasting difference to people’s lives.

Harsh Mishra

What does it mean to pursue a career with purpose?

Is it chasing dollar signs? Pushing yourself to acclaim? Reaching the top of your profession?

For me, it is something quite different. Leading a career with purpose means doing work that makes a tangible and lasting difference to people’s lives. Making a living isn’t just about making money – it’s about changing lives, and the number of lives you impact through your work is a measure of how meaningful your job is.

This starts with the people I work alongside in my role as Area Sales and Customer Manager for Unilever in the city of Hyderabad – and doesn’t ever seem to end! On the grounds of impacting lives, and meaningful work, there are few employers that match up to Unilever.

Everyone can make a difference

Currently it’s the products I’m helping to sell that are changing lives; allowing us to introduce, and make accessible, essential habits like sanitation and hygiene. Globally, an estimated 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a proper toilet and of those, 1 billion defecate in the open. More than half of those 1 billion live in my own country, India.

Many individuals have never been given the chance to understand the connection between open defecation and diarrhoea. It saddens me beyond measure to see such wonderful people tragically affected by diseases – many of which are easily preventable – due to a lack of proper hygiene and sanitation practices. This is why we’re promoting the benefits of clean toilets and helping 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by 2020.

With Unilever’s vast experience and expertise in driving behaviour change around the world, it is our responsibility to play a role in addressing social issues that align with our business. As the manufacturer of Domestos – our leading toilet hygiene brand – involvement in sanitation makes perfect sense. As a human being, touching the lives of Hyderabad’s 8 million people through Domestos and other hygiene products is one sure way to lead a career with purpose.

Team up for big impact

We also recognise that achieving the best results means collaborating with others who believe in the same things we care about. That’s why we teamed up with UNICEF, an organisation that works with governments, NGOs and local authorities to implement sanitation programmes in over 100 countries around the world.

I had the opportunity to visit one of these programmes in a Kenyan village in Kitui county which was in the middle of a ‘triggering’ exercise. This is where, through demonstrations and education, residents come to realise the negative impacts of defecating in the open. This gave me the chance to understand the issues locals were facing, and to be able to work with UNICEF was an unparalleled experience.

I also visited Kathome village, which at the time was celebrating its recently achieved open defecation-free status. Seeing the pride on people’s faces as they spoke of their efforts to build safe and clean toilets reinforced my belief in the importance of the partnership Domestos and the Unilever Foundation have built with UNICEF. Together, we’re making a genuine difference to the lives of many of these individuals, and I am proud to be a part of an organisation that is helping to lift people out of poverty – that is giving them the opportunity of a brighter future.

While I was helping to improve the lives of others, my own life was changing too. Many companies claim to give new employees the opportunity to take on significant responsibilities from the start – but there are few that give you the freedom to revel and succeed in this responsibility. I can say for sure that Unilever is one such company. Here, we believe that anybody can make a positive impact on the world. Where else will you be solely responsible for a turnover of 50 million dollars in your first role out of school?

The pace at which you mature is rapid – because Unilever believes in empowering you to achieve, right from the beginning. In the modern economy change is constant, and no two days are ever the same – but that environment ensures you give your all. For me, that’s the best thing about leading a career with purpose: because you’re changing lives, you look forward to every single day.

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