When Grads Go Good: Millennials And Socially Responsible Careers

Are Millennials still interested in non-profit work following the latest recession? For new grads entering their first job and for current students thinking about what they want their first job to be, I wondered how students in the post-recession job search climate would favor different career paths: following a traditional career arc in corporate America, going straight to graduate school, or pursuing work in non-profits or service-oriented fellowships.

This year’s graduates face a brutal job market. In the U.S, Millennials have been hit hard by the economic downturn. For the few jobs that are available, Millennials often have to compete against older, more experienced workers, as well as many applicants from their own generation. The Economic Policy Institute stated that last year “the unemployment rate for workers age 16 to 24 was 18.4% — the worst on record in 60 years.” Though Millennials with college degrees often fare better in the job market, many are also facing significant student loan debt. Experts speculate that this makes them more likely to consider high-paying jobs over ones they’re truly passionate about or more likely to take the first (or only) offer they get. However, some students believe otherwise.

Akhila Kolisetty, who graduated from Northwestern University last year and is pursuing a career in human rights law, says, “In my opinion, Millennials are MORE interested in public service work than ever. Because of the recession, opportunities in the corporate sector — whether it’s finance or law — are dwindling. More and more students have begun volunteering with non-profits to bolster their resumes, and finding out they truly enjoy working in the non-profit sector… As students are becoming more aware of the world beyond our borders, as they are studying abroad and working abroad in increasing numbers, they are also being called to service work, at home, and abroad, after gaining a broader perspective on life and work… Every day, I see more and more programs at universities focusing on service work, non-profits, and international development. I think it’s now up to us to make jobs in this sector available for young people and to ensure this passion is not lost as young graduates enter the real world.”

Indeed, often the situation depends on the student. Some students decide to escape the U.S. job market by going to straight to grad school, others by packing up and going to another country. In any case, no matter where students go, whether to succeed to in a corporate career or at a small non-profit, a recruiter we interviewed says it always pays to be the guy who starts stuff. “I went from being the guy who got rejected for a position initially to being the guy running the entire organization. How? I offered to make t-shirts for other employees the year I eventually got in, and when they were figuring out who to replace the executive director, they looked to the guy who went beyond his job description. Be that guy,” was his advice.

So was the recruiter we interviewed a corporate executive? No, he’s actually the director of a non-profit. Clearly, the skills it takes for millennials to succeed in today’s workplace for are quite similar in both the for-profit and non-profit industries. To all the students and new grads out there, raise your hand to volunteer to make t-shirts, start a lunch club for your company, be the one who brings in bagels, or organize a fantasy sports league for employees. If you do that, you just might beat the statistics and be one of the few Millenials who are able to snag and keep a job you’re truly passionate about, regardless of whatever industry it’s in and what the papers on unemployment rates say.

This post was originally featured in YPulse.

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