4 Tips To Help Millennials Find Meaningful Work

I don’t care about the actual tips so much as the rest of this piece, written by a millennial. As someone who’s had more trouble finding work since graduation 3 years ago than not, the statistics cited really do make me feel better. And angrier.

Young people today want to do work with purpose. If you’re having a hard time finding that, these lessons can help.

It’s hard enough for 30-year-olds like me to find any job in today’s job market. Finding meaningful work is even more challenging. One in four adults between 18 and 34 years old say they have moved back in with their parents after living on their own and according to the Pew Research Center, only 54% of American adults ages 18 to 25 are currently employed, the lowest percentage since the government began collecting data 60 years ago. Breaking from tradition, my generation may grow up to be less wealthy than our parents’ generation.

Every generation probably feels like it has gotten the short end of the stick, but critics really love to hate on millennials. They call us the lazy generation, the entitled generation, and the “me me me generation.” Based on the young people I know, these stereotypes couldn’t be farther from the truth. Millennials want to work–and despite being shackled by debt, recession, and the jobs crisis–they aren’t motivated by money. Rather, they’re driven to make the world more compassionate, innovative, and sustainable.

When I interviewed dozens of millennials about their career choices for The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, not once did someone answer that they wanted to “make lots of money,” “have lots of power,” or “retire with a pension in 40 years.”

Rather, they said things like: “I want to teach urban teenagers how to avoid debt and become successful entrepreneurs,” “I want to inspire young girls to think they can become engineers, and not Barbie dolls,” “I want to teach kids living in a food desert how to grow their own food,” and “I want to ensure large corporations reduce their carbon footprint.”

These young people aren’t motivated by climbing the career ladder or their stock options. The majority of millennials have already changed careers and over 90% of millennials expect to stay in a job for fewer than three years. As Nathaniel Koloc, co-founder and CEO of ReWork–a talent firm that places purpose-seeking professionals in social impact jobs–says, “There is no clear way ‘up’ anymore, it’s just a series of projects or jobs, one after another. You can move in any direction, the only question is how you’re devising your strategy of where to move and where you can ‘land,’ i.e., what you’re competitive for.”

Young people aren’t waiting for retirement. They’re asking what their purpose is now, and they’re determined to find the opportunities, organizations, and companies that share their purpose. A recent study by Net Impact showed that the millennial generation expects to make a difference in the world through their work, and more than half of millennials would take a 15% pay cut to do work for an organization that matches their values.

We aren’t the “me me me generation.” We’re a group of determined individuals who refuse to settle because we know how great our impact can be when we find work we truly care about.

So, how do you actually find meaningful work? How do you land a job (or start a company) that contributes to society (and pays the bills)?

First, it’s important to accept that there is no right answer or cure-all when it comes to finding meaningful work. Everyone is different and our purpose is constantly evolving as we meet new people, learn new things, and travel to new places. The millennials profiled in my book have done everything from register thousands of first-time voters, fight for immigrant rights, leave a nonprofit for a tech company, and leave a tech company for a nonprofit. Any kind of work can be meaningful: the challenge is discovering what purpose makes you come alive.

Based on my interviews, I discovered that meaningful work allows you to 1) share your gifts, 2) make an impact in the lives of others, and 3) live your desired quality of life. Getting these three components to align is the goal, but it’s certainly not easy.

Here are four lessons learned from impact-driven millennials that can help you pursue work that matters.

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