Study reveals college students want to have an impact on the world

Shira Moskowitz

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Despite unemployment rates in California being at a high of 8.7 percent, college students are determined to find jobs where they can make a difference, according to a recent study.

The study, published by Net Impact, looked at 1,726 people, who were either graduating college students about to enter the job market or graduated students who already had jobs.

Almost half of the students who said having a job where they can make an impact is important to them, claimed they would even take a pay cut from a higher paying job to do so.

Not only are students striving to make a difference, but more than half of those studied said they would take a 15 percent pay cut to work for a company whose values were similar to their own.

Assistant director of the CSUN Career Center Patricia Gaynor said that students wanting to work for companies with similar values as their own has been a reoccurring trend within the past several years.

“Twenty years ago you would have been embarrassed to not take a job because it stood for something you were against. But now, we view the student holistically… and it’s perfectly acceptable and understandable that you want to work for a company that has the same values as you,” Gaynor said.

However, Gaynor indicated that it doesn’t mean those who choose jobs driven by financial rewards instead of personal values, are to be looked down upon.

“It’s not to say that you’re selling out as far as your values if you choose a job for money purposes instead. It’s thinking how important it really is. It might be a stepping stone opportunity to get you to the place you want to be,” Gaynor said.

Freshman business major Afshan Bral said that although finding a company that understands what’s important to him would be nice, it’s not his first priority when he graduates.

“Of course it would be cool to work for a place that understands the kinds of things I believe in, but I need to make sure I am making money first,” Bral said.

When asked what was essential to their happiness, 73 percent of students said that having a job where they can make an impact was crucial, ranking it just under financial security and marriage. Wealth and community leadership were the two least prioritized essentials that students said they needed to be happy.

Ligal Pinhas, a senior graduating with a business degree this spring, said the best part about his job is making people happy.

“I work at the bank. So when customers come in angry and they leave smiling, it makes me feel like I’ve done my job for the day,”  Pinhas said.

Gaynor said there is no feeling like the one she gets when she receives an email from a student saying she has helped or inspired them in some way.

“I think it’s very much human nature to want to feel that feeling from making an impact. That’s why most of us do volunteer work on our free time. Anything we do, we’re all impacting others in ways we don’t even know,” Gaynor said.

Even though unemployment rates in California have consistently been on the rise, 58 percent of the students studied remain optimistic that they will have multiple job offers waiting for them when they graduate.

“I think it’s great that there is that kind of positivity out there,” Gaynor said. “But you need to watch the trends in the job market, because things can change very quickly.”

While Gaynor says that jobs in biomechanical engineering, math, science and health fields are currently skyrocketing, it doesn’t mean that it will stay that way.

“I think we have to be a lot more clever right now as far as our job search and what we accept, and we have to be much more creative,” Gaynor said.

Vice president of brand marketing and innovation at Net Impact Linda Gerard believes there is no better time to grow with a company who values making an impact.

“For students who want to drive social and environmental change on the job, there has never been a better time to join companies. The notion that business can be a force for good has clearly gone from the fringe to the mainstream over the last two decades since our founding. More and more, companies are integrating sustainability into core business strategy,” Gerard said.

Gerard feels that individuals who are entering the workforce can be part of a “new generation to use their careers to drive transformational change in the workplace and the world.”

“At Net Impact, we believe that work is good for more than just a paycheck. Work is an opportunity to invest ourselves in issues that are important to us,” Gerard said.

Out of the 55 percent of professionals who work at impactful jobs, 49 percent of them reported they felt satisfied at work, compared to only 24 percent of individuals who said they felt satisfied working at jobs that didn’t focus on having a social or environmental impact, the study said.

“The happier you are, the more likely there is going to be longevity in your job and the more likely that you’re going to be enjoying it,” Gaynor said.

To learn more about career options and other useful resources, visit the CSUN Career Center website.