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Inspiring Millennials to Work on Purpose

Inspiring Millennials to Work on Purpose Photo

The Millennial generation is frequently characterized as well educated, highly motivated, and socially conscious. However, the path to working for social change is not always clear. To help millennials access a framework for pursuing socially-driven careers, Echoing Green recently published Work on Purpose, a book of inspiring stories, helpful resources and thought-provoking questions.

Commongood had the opportunity to chat with the book’s author, Lara Galinsky, to learn more about what it means to work on purpose.

What was the inspiration behind Work on Purpose?

A few years ago, I heard a statistic that really struck me: 62% of college students are interested in nonprofit and public sector careers, but only 9% know how to find those jobs. There’s a lot of hunger around pursuing social change careers, but no easy access to the tools and resources to satiate that hunger. The idea for Work on Purpose came out of the desire to help this change-driven generation of young adults access the framework they need to pursue meaningful careers.

Work on Purpose is geared towards the foot soldiers of the social entrepreneur movement. Through Echoing Green’s experience supporting social entrepreneurs for the past 24 years, we know that these individuals do not work alone. It takes all sorts of talent – staff, volunteers and funders – to build institutions and networks. The inspiration for the book comes from a deep belief that all of these participants are the lifeblood of social change organizations.

What is motivating this movement? Why are more people pursuing social change careers?

There are a few factors. Throughout the economic crisis of the past few years, more people have taken stock of their values and decided to pursue careers with meanings. At Echoing Green, we speak to folks who are looking to trade corporate jobs for social change careers nearly every day. They come to us in search of a compass to help them do so.

For example, I work closely with our Social Investment Council, a group of private equity, venture capital and management consulting professionals who are interested in financing social change work. Over the years, I’ve seen many of these members leave their corporate jobs to pursue roles that are more aligned with their values of doing good in the world.

For members of the millennial generation entering the workforce for the first time, they bring with them a deep-seeded belief in making a difference. The research on this generation shows that millennials prioritize “helping others who are in difficulty” in their career choices. This generation was raised on volunteerism and service, much more so than previous generations. To this group, working for a cause isn’t necessarily a choice; it’s the orientation that many millennials developed early on in their lives. The relationship between career, impact and personal fulfillment is at the core of the millennial generation’s choices.

What trends did you see across the individuals profiled in the book?

The book follows five individuals who are relatively early in their careers. While their stories are different, the common thread is that they’ve all chosen similar paths, specifically joining organizations that reflect their personal values. And they all pushed past challenges to do so. Their stories represent what happens when you align your heart with your head, which we see as creating the “hustle” needed to pursue what’s most important to you.

The book suggests a rather spiritual approach to career planning. How can readers leverage the book in practical ways during a job search?

Planning for one’s career is a practice; it requires intention and discipline. A job search is all about not taking shortcuts. If you take your time to pay attention to what you really want, and then ask the right questions, you will be more successful in your job search.

At the end of each chapter, there are questions and activities to stimulate this process. I hope the book provides a framework for young adults to develop criteria through which they can evaluate job opportunities.

Jobseekers that are better informed about what they want – and how what they want matches to the specific requirements and qualifications for an open position – are positioned for success. For some jobs at Echoing Green, we receive over 600 applications. You better believe that the person who demonstrates self-assuredness and purpose is going to stand out.

To learn more about Work on Purpose, please visit:

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