Julia Capon on finding her ‘Why’

After I recovered from the slight shock of finding out that Do Good Jobs is run by a one-woman-band, Julia shared her journey of reconnecting with her purpose, the reality of growing a business on her own, and the importance of learning from the people around you.

What is Do Good Jobs?

It’s New Zealand’s number one ethical jobs board. It’s there to connect people who want to do good (what I like to call ‘Do-gooders’) with organisations that are doing good. That can be charities, social enterprises, or businesses whose focus is not just about making a profit. It’s a community of people who are looking for information about good things that are happening in New Zealand, and are wanting to transition into more meaningful work. Ideally, in the future it’s going to be more than just jobs, so watch this space. I don’t quite know what it’s going to look like but it might be sharing good news, or getting people networking, or ways to learn how to do things better.

What does ‘good’ mean in the context of Do Good Jobs?

In terms of who can list jobs, it either has to be a registered New Zealand charity or a social enterprise i.e they’re doing it because they want to better the community or the world, or change people’s lives in some way. And then there’s the jobs themselves. There might be a job being the Environmental Manager for a petrol company. Is that good? I would say it’s good because you need people inside not-so-good organisations to push for change and create that change. Some people might not think a fossil-fuel business is great, but actually, they’re addressing an issue and the person who gets into that role could have a lot of influence and could do a lot of good. It’s a bit of a juggle.

How did you learn about running a business?

A lot of it I’ve picked up from amazing people around me, and through doing my own reading and research. Working out of a space like the Bizdojo is also a great way to connect and keep on learning, and having friends across a whole variety of sectors is useful to talk to other people about what has been successful for them. Just recently, one of my friends said I should create a “virtual board of directors”. Find people I really like — not necessarily tell them their role — and sit down with them every couple of months to get their help with strategy for the overall picture. I need external input to make it better and stronger otherwise it’s all in my head.

How did Do Good Jobs come into existence?

It’s a longish story. I studied Marketing, Design, and Spanish at university, and in the last year of my Masters in Dunedin I met a boy — always the story — and he was a philosophy student.

He’d ask me all these hard questions about what good did I want to do with my life? I realised I didn’t have a very clear purpose. I was just going through the motions of getting my degree and hadn’t really thought about why I was doing it and what I wanted to achieve.

After I finished university I ran off to South America with him. We travelled around and looked at some really awesome socialist projects that were happening in quite poor ‘barrios’ (neighbourhoods). I left there thinking it was amazing to see how they were empowered and how change could happen.

The week before I got home to New Zealand I sent my CV to the head office of Trade Aid New Zealand thinking I’d work in one of their shops. My CV somehow ended up on the General Manager’s desk and I got a job there as a Marketing Manager based in Christchurch. I was doing a lot of the design, the packaging, the website, and we were buying food from Spanish speaking countries so the food buyer would come to me and say “Julia! Can you help me translate this?” I realised I was actually using all three things that I studied! I really enjoyed it there, but it was quite stressful.

In 2011 I came to Wellington and started working part-time for a climate change group called 350.org. In my job search, I had struggled to find the job I wanted through Trade Me and Seek — I had to filter through all of the listings for ‘charity’ or ‘not for profit’ or ‘sustainability’.

I thought, why has no one started an ethical jobs board for New Zealand? So I started Do Good Jobs in the bedroom of my Newtown flat with the help of a couple of friends.

It’s always been a side-thing, but over the past few years I’ve been able to add a Do Good Job day to my work week. I did two days per week last year, three days this year, and who knows what next year. It’s been slow but steady growth. Now, five years on, there was just over 1.1 million page views last year from 167,000 people.

Have you ever had a moment of doubt?

Definitely. Last year I was feeling a bit flat — keeping that energy over five years can be a challenge. I just happened to fall into the jobs sector, and there’s a lot of Human Resource (HR) type stuff behind it; that’s not my area of expertise. It’s been a learning curve for me and I got to the point where I didn’t know if I wanted to learn more about it.

I’m not passionate about writing a blog about how to write your best CV, or write a cover letter, or do a job interview. What I’m passionate about is the awesome people doing the good stuff in communities, and how we can make charities more efficient and stronger and better at what they do.

I remember saying to my partner Jonny, “What am I doing? Should I change the way that Do Good Jobs runs? Should I give it to someone else to run?” But I’ve come to realise that I didn’t connect with the jobs bit; it’s just a means to an end and it’s not the focus that I want to have. It’s fired me up to think, what could I do? This is my business — I can make it whatever I want it to be. It’s also a bit scary because you have to drive yourself forward and hold yourself accountable.

How do you keep a healthy work-life balance while running a business on your own?

When I first started Do Good Jobs, I was also working at 350 Aotearoa as well as a startup website called Planet Goodness, and I was doing 8 hours a week for All Good Bananas when they launched here in Wellington. It was just too much. So I made a rule to only have two jobs at once, and I’ve been very clear on which days I work because juggling two jobs is really hard.

Last year I went on a (proper) disconnected holiday for the first time in five years. Although I’ve been on holiday before, my website went down so I had to email my web developer and respond to people. So last year I found someone I trusted to hand over my duties to, and I went away for two weeks and she did it all. I checked my email maybe once in the morning but it was really nice to not have to worry.

It can be difficult, but having the flexibility of running your own business is pretty awesome. If I don’t feel like getting up and being here by 8:30 tomorrow morning I could just stay in bed, but I might work on the Sunday to make up for the fact that I lay in on Friday. I really like that freedom, and I don’t know if I could do a (normal) full-time job now.

Why do you care about doing good?

I want to do good in terms of leaving the world in a better state than it currently is, and I think that mainly came from when I was little. I used to run an environmental group when I was 7 or 8 — me and my neighbours would get together and pick up rubbish on our way down the road to the dairy. I forgot about that until my old boyfriend Ricardo, the philosophy student, asked me “Well, what did you want to be when you were a kid?” I really cared about penguins who were getting choked by the 6-pack coke holders — this visual sat with me for a really long time, but I don’t know what happened to that person when I went to university. When Ricardo was asking me those questions, I reconnected with that issue. I thought, why do I not care about that anymore? How did life change? I care about getting people to think about what they can do — what values they hold, and what it is that they want to pursue to make change.

What’s the future for Do Good Jobs?

There’s an opportunity to provide more support for particularly small and medium charities because they don’t have the financial resource like the larger ones. I’ve worked in this space and I know the struggles. How do you engage and look after volunteers? How do you become a better leader? How do you fundraise? The 101 of doing good that a lot of people don’t know and don’t have access to because courses cost thousands of dollars. I’d like to turn my website into Do Good Things — not just jobs — providing for people in that space and highlighting the cool things that are happening. The aim is to have someone come on board by the end of the year because I really notice the benefit of working with someone else and bouncing ideas off them.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to do good in their professional life?

There’s a great website called 80,000 hours and it talks about lots of different ways you can do good. You could work within a corporate and create change from within, or work as a stockbroker and gift 50% of all you earn back, or go and become a fundraiser, grant writer or a policy change person, or even run a good business and commit to giving back to the community.

Everyone has a different value set that will guide their focus. There’s such a variety of things that people would like to focus on, and I think as you go through life you get clearer and clearer on those values.

If someone wants get involved, how they can contact you?

They can look on the website, join the Do Good Jobs facebook page, or they can send me a message.