- Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority (69%) of college students aspire to jobs that have a positive impact on society, according to a new survey of more than 20,000 students by research firm College Pulse.
- Respondents believe the biggest contributors to society are doctors, engineers, teachers, scientists and construction workers. The professions that respondents said make the least contributions to society are consultants, politicians, religious leaders and financial advisors.
- Students at the top 50 universities are twice as likely as others 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 job seekers, but less so it seems among members of younger generations. A recent Indeed survey found today's college graduates flock to jobs in the arts and social services over once-popular finance jobs. That also supports the idea that newcomers to the workforce want to make a contribution to society.
What will soon be a majority of the labor force — millennials and Gen Zers — supports "social enterprise," or the idea of measuring a company by its demonstrated corporate citizenship as well as its financial performance.
As such, it may be incumbent upon educators and talent professionals alike to sell students and potential recruits on why such jobs are meaningful, and to focus on how the skill sets and qualities required can bring further meaning to that work.
That's one reason colleges are looking at new ways to measure higher-order skills such as critical thinking and oral communication among students. In one pilot program, the nonprofit Education Design Lab and credentials firm Credly worked with several colleges to test their approach to assessing and awarding badges to these so-called "soft" skills.
Yet hiring managers and business leaders say college students lag in some of these areas, according to parallel surveys of the two groups last year. Fewer than half of each group say college grads have strong oral communication skills and about one-third each say graduates are "very well prepared" to apply what they learned in college on the job.
A report last fall from the Strada Institute and Emsi based on a review of professional profiles, resumes and job postings calls on higher ed to help students determine and obtain the mix of technical and soft skills they will need to succeed in their careers.