5 Lessons for Millennials Looking for an Impact Job

By: Lily Mathews | October 23, 2012

Hey, Millennials: caught yourself in the news lately? You might've read that you're less likely to be hired than Boomers, not going to buy a home or car anytime soon, and workers wages are at an all-time low. Yikes. For a young worker looking to make an impact, that's enough to make you crawl under a pile of resumes until the next presidential election rolls around.

Of course, most of us know there's more to this generation than disillusionment. In fact, a growing number are ready for a job that doesn't just pay the bills but lets us do meaningful work, too. So, how do we make it happen? Start with this career advice from our very own network of impact makers.

1. Ask and you shall receive

If you need a job, says Allison Jones, Editor of Idealist.org, you need to tell people you are looking for a job. And you need to tell them what kind of job you are looking for and why you are qualified for that line of work. When I'm open about what I'm looking for people are more than willing to help.

2. Find an advocate

Even beyond the active job search, developing relationships with people who either work in the field you're interested in, or who have a sensibility or approach to work that you admire, can open up doors. It's all about creating a feedback loop with someone who can give you input, advice, and guidance.

3. Weigh more than just the paycheck

When Ross Baird, Executive Director of Village Capital, took on an internship in India right out of school, he didn't expect to get a crash course in everything from financial modeling to relationship-building. In a resource-limited environment, his boss demanded all hands on deck. He would assign me serious business homework to do in my off hours, describes Ross. His philosophy was that a good 'athlete' can figure it out.

Allison stresses a similar sentiment. "When I moved to New York for my first job, I was paid $36,000. Even though it was an entry level position, I pretty much ran the entire fundraising and fellowship program at the school. So I learned so much, and l was able to leverage that into my next (higher paying) position."

With that said, be realistic. When it comes to job searching, you need to figure out what's important to you, says Allison. If you have loans and you can't afford to live on the salary offered, then don't take the job.

4. Cross your t's and dot your i's

While the job search can sometimes feel like a roller coaster, one of the easiest things you can do to level it out is to pay attention to the details. All the networking and outreach in the world won't help if you're not following up with people, being courteous, and respecting the time of those you're reaching out to.

Get organized about your contact list (try our Job Search Tracker ?? ), and be sure to follow up and send thank yous in a timely manner. Bonus points for leveraging social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn!

5. Pause for some honest reflection

For Haydee Moreno, who switched from a Wall Street finance career to community banking, pausing to take stock is critical. "I think that for a long time I was motivated by that next challenge. It was getting into college, and then it was getting the grades and internships, then the job, then the most challenging sector within that job. When I got to my end goal, I stopped to think: 'what am I actually doing in the world?'" The moment you realize you might not be where you want to be is a great incentive to do something about it.

Rob Kaplan uses a simple cue to remind himself to pause: "Once I stop learning, it's a red flag that I need to start exploring a new opportunity. My personal career philosophy has always been 'go where you can make the most impact.'"

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