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People Want Jobs That Make A Difference, Even If It Means A Pay Cut

A new survey comparing college students soon to enter the work force with current workers found that everyone wants an "impact job," and would do a lot to get one.

The job market may be bleak, but college graduates of all ages still have high hopes that they will eventually land "impact jobs" that make a difference socially or environmentally. So says Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012 from Net Impact, which surveyed 1,726 college students about to enter the workforce as well as employed four-year college graduates (including Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) on their life goals, job satisfaction, and desire to have an "impact job."

Here’s what the survey found.

  • Somewhat surprisingly, current workers said that having an impact job was more important than having children, a prestigious career, wealth, and community leadership. The top two most important things to have for happiness: financial security and marriage. Financial security still matters more than making a difference, but wealth isn’t important for people if they can do some good.
  • That’s especially true for students: 58% of student respondents say they would take a 15% pay cut to "work for an organization whose values are like my own."
  • Almost 60% of students also expect to have multiple job offers to choose from (that may be a little overly idealistic); 37% believe they can make a positive social or environmental impact within five years.
  • Among current workers, work/life balance is the most important aspect of an ideal job. A positive environment is the second most important piece (it’s most important overall for students), and interesting work is third. Having a prestigious employer is the least important piece.
  • There are a few big differences between students and workers: 50% of students say it’s important to have an employer that prioritizes CSR, while only 38% of current workers care. Half of current workers care if their job helps make a better world, but 65% of students care.
  • Overall, women care more about impact jobs than men: 30% of women say they would take a pay cut for an impact job, while 19% of men say the same thing. And 60% of employed women believe that working for a socially and environmentally conscious employer is important, compared to 38% of men.
  • In spite of the student population’s idealism, Boomers are most likely to vote (73% compared to 43% of students in the last year), boycott a product or company, or volunteer outside of work.

What does it all mean? Employers had better start taking action now to accommodate the burgeoning socially conscious generation of college grads (which paradoxically does not seem to be civically minded at all). And those new grads, in turn, might want to check out some of the new impact job resources that have started popping up.

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  • Steve

    Ha! Nice, warm, fuzzy article. But a majority of those students will change their mind about pay-cuts when their parents cut them off after college and they are forced to make their own way. Living is expensive (especially if you want to get enjoyment out of it).

  • Ryan Steinbach

    This article is great and I'm so happy that positive data is being developed for how socially conscious all generations are, not just millenials.
     In regards to your conclusion about college grads being less civically-minded, I wonder if the survey questions regarding civic duty is bias toward boomers. While I have no hard data to back this up, it seems to me that the examples of civic duty mentioned (especially boycotting) are more representative of how boomers view civic duty, being influenced by the civil rights movement. I would argue that the idea of what it means to be civically-minded has shifted in the millenial generation. With the creation of online causes and petitions as well as several crowd-funding platforms, it seems to me that there is a distinct possiblity that millenials are in fact not less civically-minded, they just have a different understanding of their civic duty.

  • Kevin W. McCarthy

    A generation of on-purpose persons in creation - how exciting!

    Sadly, the concept of a job is so ingrained into their parents and their skulls that finding a job that makes difference versus creating their own "job" - starting a business, pursuing a dreams, etc... is foreign and scary to all but the purest of entrepreneurs. 

    We're on the verge of The American Dream 3.0 - where anyone can have a business that provides both meaning and reasonable pay with an unlimited upside potential.  Big business will still have its role and importance.  College students / grads don't settle for a job when you can have a life of meaning and purpose.  That's my commencement address!

    Be On-Purpose!