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Most New Graduates Would Take a Pay Cut to Make a Difference

The latest Net Impact survey shows that 72 percent of graduating seniors believe making a difference at work is essential to their happiness.

Ask any new college graduate about her immediate goals, and chances are she'll tell you she wants a job. But it turns out today's students aren't going to be satisfied with any job. According to the latest survey from Net Impact, making a difference through their work is essential to young people's happiness.

The survey found that 72 percent of graduating college seniors believe being able to make a "positive societal impact" through their work is essential to their happiness. Making a difference is so important to them that 45 percent say they'd take a 15 percent pay cut to work at an organization that makes a social or environmental impact and 58 percent say they'd take a pay cut to "work for an organization whose values are like my own."

Female students are significantly more likely to prioritize social impact than their male classmates, echoing a previous study showing that female math and science majors are more likely than their male counterparts to say they go into those fields to make a difference.

Financial security is still the most important priority for new grads—91 percent said that's essential—but it's refreshing to see that students still think about how they can make the world better even though they graduate with an average of $25,000 in student loan debt.

One reason for the emphasis on improving the world probably has to do with the culture of college, which encourages students to connect their academic lessons back to real-world problems (or should, at least). Students are used to discussing important social issues with their friends and professors, and doing something about them in class or through volunteer activities. Once students develop those habits, they don't shut them off when graduation rolls around. Let's hope that the tough economic climate doesn't cause today's grads to lose their enthusiasm for making an impact through their work.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Jason Bache

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