Young people are idealistic: That’s as true today as it was 40 or 50 years ago.
But there’s one sentiment that sets millennials apart from earlier generations of young people—from the silent generation, the baby boomers, and Generation X. They are also eminently practical. Call them “realistic idealists,” if you will, or “idealistic realists.” Either term applies.
Take their attitudes toward work. Many young baby boomers were skeptical that businesses had the inclination or even the capacity to make the world a better place. But today’s young people feel differently—they expect to give back through their jobs, too. According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, “Many millennials feel unable to exert any meaningful influence on some of society’s biggest challenges; but in the workforce, they can feel a greater sense of control—[as] an active participant rather than a bystander.”
Businesses recognize these attitudes and are responding—both to attract the best young workers and to make a difference themselves.
“Leading companies aren’t just redirecting profits by giving back to society through more traditional ‘corporate social responsibility’ tactics,” said Robert Haynie, a Washington, D.C.-based impact investing strategist and instructor in the Georgetown University Executive Master’s program in Global Strategic Communications. “They are figuring out how to address social and environmental issues while simultaneously advancing their business interests.”
And this mentality isn’t just limited to the business world. Before venturing into the professional world, millennials are seeking a practical approach for how to integrate this desire to do good within their careers—without their success taking a backseat.
Higher education institutions have been responding to this demand. At Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies, coursework is designed to serve students who don’t only want to make money, but also make an impact. This academic approach is driven by the School’s Jesuit values, which emphasize community building, social justice, and service to others.
“We’re living in a ‘purpose revolution,’” said John Trybus, managing director for Georgetown’s Center for Social Impact Communication. “Students, and especially millennials, aren’t just thinking about making money in their careers, but also how they can use these careers to advance a larger social purpose.”
Whether you’re a millennial or a business that hires them, the landscape is changing. It’s more important now than ever that the work we do has a purpose and serves the greater good.