27 September 2023

More than a job: How university students want roles with purpose

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Valerie Bolden-Barrett* says a recent survey has discovered that a majority of university graduates would like work that makes a difference to society.

Photo: Olga Guryanova

Most university students say jobs that contribute to society are important or very important to them in a College Pulse survey.

The research and data analytics company polled more than 20,000 university students and found that 69 per cent favour work that makes a difference in society, according to a news release.

Respondents believe the biggest contributors to society are doctors, engineers, teachers, scientists and construction workers.

The professions that make the least contributions to society, according to the respondents, are consultants, politicians and financial advisors.

When it comes to law enforcement workers, students of colour were twice as likely as white students to say they contribute “not very much” to society, the survey found.

Respondents at the top 50 universities are twice as likely as other students to think financial service workers contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all,” while more male respondents than female respondents think entrepreneurs contribute “a lot” to society.

Money is still a big motivator for workers and jobseekers, but less so it seems with younger generations.

A recent Indeed survey found that university graduates flock to jobs in the arts and social services over once-popular finance jobs, which also supports the idea that today’s young workers want to make a contribution to society.

A MetLife survey recently showed that more workers in general believe their employers should help resolve society’s problems, though taking on societal problems presents difficulty for most organisations.

What will soon be a majority of the labour force — millennials and Gen Zers — supports “social enterprise,” which pressures employers to consider these activities if they want to recruit, hire and retain them.

Employers filling occupations that College Pulse’s respondents think contribute the least to society may face a greater challenge.

It may be incumbent on talent professionals to sell potential recruits on why these types of jobs are meaningful and focus on how the candidates’ unique skill sets and qualities can bring further meaning to that work.

Embracing corporate social responsibility could also help employers cultivate a brand as a socially impactful organisation, perhaps gaining them a competitive edge for recruiting these generations of talent.

* Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a business writer and content specialist and contributor to HR Dive.

This article first appeared at www.hrdive.com.

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