Purpose Driven Careers: Redefining the Foundation of Work

Teacher, Attorney

Bus Driver, Neonatologist

Janitor, Chief Executive Officer

Administrative coordinator, Vice President

What’s in a title? To some people, titles are everything. For some, our job titles become the source of our identity and the foundation of our social significance.

How often do we meet people and begin introductions with, “What do you do?”

Have you ever noticed your disposition shift based on the response you’re given? I have; I can recall moments where the response to that question has caused me to sit up straighter, lean in closer or even respond more or less formal.

Our promotional accomplishments are meant to be celebrated as they are often the reward of a long journey of hard work, skills training and leadership development. I absolutely believe that; I’d also offer that perhaps there is more to our careers than we may consider at first glance.

According to the Merriam – Wester dictionary career is defined as, “a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life.”

Dictionary.com puts it this way:




an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress.

After giving some thought to this and learning about the life of a legend in the Crenshaw neighborhood, I’d like to offer an abridged definition of our career:

A lifework of learning, training and growing that leverages your strengths and skills to make an impact on the lives of others.

Over the past week I’ve been so inspired and encouraged by the life of Ermias Asghedom, known across the hip hop community as “Nipsey Hussle.” I couldn’t tell you a song or fact about him before last week, but I believe we can all learn how to redefine our perspective on the purpose of our career based on his life. He was born and raised in South Los Angeles, the son of a refugee father from Eritrea and an American mother. He built a music career from the ground up, but he will be remembered as a bridge builder for his community.

Beyond his career as a rapper, he was a real estate investor, leader, business man and trailblazer that valued a life of significance over success. As CNN headlined, he was “more of a movement than a musician.”

Along with many other leaders that leveraged their career to live a purpose driven life of service to others, Nipsey’s life teaches us 4 necessities of a purpose driven career:

1. Courage – He used his voice and took risks to transcend the status quo. It takes courage to build a road where there’s a wall. Nipsey’s older brother, Samuel Asghedom, recalled his brilliance building a computer from spare parts he collected over weeks at school. It was on that computer that he taught himself to make music and later, persistently, positioned his skill in front of giants in the industry that would help him rise. It takes courage to rise above challenging life circumstances. It takes courage to rise above unfortunate career situations. Those that do are able to uncover deeper meaning in their work and thrive forward through change and challenge.

2. Commitment – Nipsey believed in the process of hard work, positivity and determination to make something out of nothing. Forbes notes this led to him being an “innovative entrepreneur in the music industry, often acknowledged for his unique sales strategies.” Commitment creates innovation. We praise innovation in business, and it’s often the result of relentless commitment to turn challenges and struggles into opportunities to iterate for growth.

3. Connectedness –  This is probably one of his most beloved traits. Connectedness is the key to creating an inclusive culture where others believe they belong. Nipsey cultivated connectedness through an authentic vulnerability with and accessibility to his community despite being “promoted” and amassing success as a business man. The impact of our purpose driven careers is accelerated through connection. People must always come first, and as leaders our responsibility is to cultivate a culture of connection despite age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class. When people believe they belong, they build; and building generates business.

4. Community – The most profound legacy that Nipsey Hussle leaves behind is the investment he made in his community. This was the must do, and not have to do, of his life. As Forbes documents, Nipsey invested in ecosystems as a deeply concerned and committed native of South LA. His philanthropic contribution spoke to the diverse needs of his community from affordable housing and access to healthy foods to co-working space and STEM education. Serving our community – those that are connected to us and can benefit from our skills set – is the ultimate why for any career. Who is the community you’re called to serve? Our careers are a catalyst for impacting the lives of others.

As we advance, let’s reach around (not back because we're connected to the community) and bring our communities with us. It's imperative that we bring why we are to what we do so that it impacts who we're doing it for. Success and titles are often chased, but significance and purpose builds. How will you impact and serve others through your career?

Nipsey Hussle 

Artist: Catrina Long @froedoutbarbie

Forbes article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/morgansimon/2019/04/11/lessons-in-impact-investing-from-nipsey-hussle/#4cb6c11f748e

Written by Brittany Cole

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