Hundreds of young professionals fed up with boosting corporate profits are ditching city jobs and trading six-figure salaries for more “meaningful” work.

Corporate lawyers, accountants, traders and bankers are taking major pay cuts, relying on an annual wage of about £22,500 pro rata while they retrain for work in social enterprise through a programme called On Purpose.

The programme’s so-called “associates” then take on placements at organisations like the prisoner-run Bad Boys’ Bakery, social investment group Big Society Capital and food distributors FoodCycle.

On Purpose chief executive Tom Rippin said they are drawing in young city workers who are starting to question their career trajectories.

“A lot of people say ‘I just didn’t feel like I was doing anything very meaningful, I was looking for meaning, I wanted to have some purpose beyond just making some rich people richer or creating some sort of profits for some shareholders’,” Mr Rippin said.

More than 200 people have gone through the one-year programme since it was launched 2010, with the latest cohort initiated earlier this month.

Georgina Smee, 35, joined On Purpose earlier this year. The former corporate lawyer had been promoted and offered a secondment to New York but quit after realising she was not willing to be on-call 24/7 and glued to her BlackBerry.

“I think the priorities are so skewed in corporate law firms and the expectations are extraordinary,” she said.

But moving from a £100,000 salary has not come without challenges. Ms Smee now bikes to work since she can no longer afford public transport.

“It’s a huge salary cut but that’s just not what it’s about. For me, life is too short to do work that you don’t care about. And I want enough money but I don’t need loads of money,” she explained.

Ms Smee is on a six-month placement with Big Society Capital, after having stepped in as acting chief operating officer during her first placement with Food- Cycle earlier this year.

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