Akanksha Kapoor On Going From Journalism To A Worthy Social Cause

Akanksha Kapoor began her career as a journalist but over the years she has changed tracks to now work for a social cause.

“Growing up, my mother worked for a philanthropic organization that gave grants to NGOs, and I attended multiple social engagements with her. Influenced by her work, I started volunteering from a young age and derived great validation from creating an impact in someone’s life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until several years later that I realised I could make a living from socially impactful work.

So, my career began with an undergrad in English Honours and a diploma in Journalism before I landed my first job with The Indian Express. Two years in, I was offered an opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree at Cardiff University, and I came back as the editor of the in-flight magazine ‘JetWings’, where I traveled and wrote about all kinds of exotic destinations, a dream job in every sense. But with the sponsored trips seeming more like advertorials and peers pursuing a more ‘serious brand’ of journalism, I soon realised some dreams are better left dreams.

In what has possibly been my most rash decision, I switched to a role in business journalism. Six months of doing this was enough for me to forgo journalism altogether.

After six years in the industry, I knew I had to make a change.

When I decided to volunteer in the social sector, family & friends felt it was ‘frivolous’!

It was around this time that I volunteered with Mentor Me India. I was assigned to mentor a girl named Jaimini, and we would spend time together doing simple things like talking in the park, getting coffee and watching movies. I could see the impact our interactions had on Jaimini and how validating this was for me. In what I consider an absolutely self-fulfilling move, I finally decided to pivot into a career in the social sector.

But this wasn’t easy. Coming from a family where my dad was an engineer and sister and brother-in-law MBA graduates, my decision to pursue journalism itself was considered frivolous. A move to the social sector was dismissed as a whim and I was told by many ‘well wishers’ that it was time to “grow up”.

Thankfully, this didn’t stop me from working with UNICEF and finally finding my niche in public health with a tuberculosis project in Delhi, where I transferred my communications and journalism skills to find my place in the social sector.

Getting the chance of a lifetime

Things were on track until I got married and had to move to Bangalore, where roles in my niche were limited. I was mentally preparing for a career break, when almost serendipitously, I landed a job at GE Healthcare. An opportunity of a lifetime, this was my first transition to a corporate role after seven years in small social organisations.

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With a non-engineering and non-MBA background, I found myself fighting the classic impostor syndrome. Not understanding simple terms like topline and bottomline, and placing more importance on qualitative impact over revenue, I felt like a complete misfit. Funnily, at a time when I was struggling to come to terms with my transition, the same ‘well wishers’ who’d asked me to ‘grow up’ were now finally convinced of my career path. It didn’t matter that I was still doing social development work, I was now associated with a large company and that seemed to validate my career choice (to them!).

A change again, this time towards flexibility at work

While learning to settle into this new world, life threw me another curveball. I became a mother. When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I was offered a promotion. While my organisation had confidence in me, I was not sure about taking on this responsibility and was afraid of missing my daughter’s milestones, and I was ready to call it quits. It was my organisation’s willingness to give me the flexibility I needed that has allowed me to stay on. Interventions like OfExperiences Working Mom Program also gave me a chance to find allies in my journey as a working mom along with the confidence to take these challenges head on!

Through the years, there’s a quote that’s always stayed with me – ‘Do the thing, life will figure it out’. At least for me, this has been true.”

Published here first.

Image source: LinkedIn

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