Job Security and Meaningful Work in High Demand for Today's Workforce

Net Impact's Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012 highlights desire for ‘impact jobs’

May 23, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO AND NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -- A new nationwide study examining work life and jobs with meaning finds that 65% of university students expect to make an impact on causes and issues they care about in their future job.

The study, Net Impact’s Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012, is a nationally representative sample of college-educated workers in three generations—Millennials, GenerationXers and Baby Boomers - and current college students. To read the executive summary or the entire survey, please visit www.netimpact.org/whatworkerswant.

Critical findings include:

Demand for “impact jobs”: Two thirds (65%) of workers and students said that “the potential to contribute to society” and “a job that will make the world a better place” is very important to them, with about one in four deeming this to be essential.

  • Most university students (65%) expect to be able to make some positive social or environmental difference through their work. ‘Having a job where they can make an impact on causes and issues that are important to them’, is something the vast majority of undergraduate and graduate students want out of their work life.
  • Seven-in-ten say this is “very important” to them, which includes 31 percent who say it is “essential.” “Impact jobs” connect to job satisfaction: Twice as many employees who say they have an opportunity at their job to make a positive social or environmental impact on the world report being very satisfied with their jobs compared to people who are in jobs that don’t have such an opportunity.

“For the first time, we have data that shows a direct connection between job satisfaction and
making a difference at work,” said Net Impact CEO, Liz Maw. “Employees today don’t want to check their values at the door when they arrive at their jobs, and the ability to live and work with strong social meaning is clearly important to them.”

Job attributes: The survey identified the five top job attributes, of 16 presented to rank, that workers want from their worklife: a good work/life balance, a positive work environment, good compensation, having interesting work to do and job security.

Cliff Zukin, the Rutgers Professor who directed the study commented, “We may be looking at the end of the millennial generation, a casualty of the recession. It seems unusual for those in their early 20s to so highly value job security given how self-confident and entrepreneurial the
Millennial generation has seemed to be. It may well be that today’s university students are the
follow-up to the Millennial generation, and may more closely resemble the GenX generation,
which came of age in a climate of economic insecurity.”

Students Facing Future Workplace Reality: Undergraduates are under no illusions about how difficult it will be to find a job when they graduate into an economy where unemployment is close to nine percent.

  • Just one in ten students think it is going to be ‘very easy’ to find a job, and only another 23 percent say it will be ‘somewhat easy.’ Nearly half (46%) say finding a job will be “somewhat difficult,” with another 13 percent believing that it will be “very difficult.”
  • When a follow up question is posed asking them to rank how difficult it will be to find a job they really want to do, just under a quarter think it will be either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat easy.’ Just 11 percent believe they will have a great deal of choice in jobs when they graduate college.
  • Two thirds of the undergraduates and three quarters of the graduate students surveyed say they expect to owe money for school or other reasons when they finish. The median debt for those juniors and seniors saying they will owe money is $25,000.

Money and Meaning for Tomorrow’s Leaders: Despite current employment outlooks and a lack of real-world experience, graduating students still maintain a desire to work for and with purpose, even if means a smaller paycheck. Of the students surveyed:

  • Over half (58%) would take a 15 percent pay cut to ‘work for an organization whose values are like my own.’
  • Almost half (45%) would take a 15 percent pay cut to ‘have a job that makes a social or environmental impact on the world.’
  • Over a third (35%) would take a 15 percent pay cut to ‘work for a company committed to corporate and environmental sustainability.’

“Young people in college and grad school see making a social impact as a critical part of their career,” says Maw. “Even in a depressed job market, these resilient and optimistic students are leading with their values.”

The study was conducted to investigate what workers want out of their jobs in the year 2012; it examined demand for impact jobs, and how the youngest generation of workers might differ from their older counterparts. The survey also set out to consider how life goals, job satisfaction, 'impact jobs' in practice and citizen activities rank in importance, value and fulfillment for current and upcoming generations.

A total of 1,726 respondents were surveyed in a statistically representative sample of Americans who had graduated from a four-year college and were working full-time when the study was conducted between February 15 and 18, 2012. The sampling error for the overall study is approximately + 3 percent.