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.

People Want Jobs That Make A Difference, Even If It Means A Pay Cut
David Brimm/Shutterstock

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.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.