Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: Millennials don’t have to sacrifice passion for money in employment

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.

While in college, I had two types of jobs: passion jobs and bills jobs. My passion jobs orbited around the voluntary sector and reflected my personal interests: quality of and accessibility to education, social justice, advocacy research, etc. Sometimes paid and sometimes not, these experiences were always fulfilling. Should someone ask me the ubiquitous, “What do you do?” question, I would always answer with my passion job. My pay-the-bills jobs, on the other hand, gravitated toward the menial and uninspiring but served an indispensable self-evident purpose. Ultimately, each taught me valuable lessons and opened the doors to opportunities I could have never imagined. Most importantly, they helped me understand which sort of career I wanted and needed after graduation. The only problem was that the wanted and the needed seemed irreconcilable.

What I wanted was to make a difference. What I needed was to make money. Given my educational and professional background, I felt confident I could achieve either, but the dynamics of the non- and for-profit sectors made it unlikely that I could manage both. My initial compromise consisted of a full-time bills job supplemented by personal volunteering and charitable contributions. This was a temporary relief, but when I learned that as many as 70 percent of employees in the United States are either disengaged or actively disengaged in their job, I became worried again. The difficulty of negotiating my values with the culture of corporate America and the financial needs of a recent graduate fueled the beginnings of a quarter-life crisis.

As I researched and weighed my options, striving to keep myself out of that 70 percent of disengaged employees, I came across ominous statistics, but some also provided solace. For instance, I learned I was not alone. Seventy-five percent of millennials think that businesses are not focused enough on improving society. When asked what factors, besides salary, influence their choice of a job, millennials often cite the importance of a sense of meaning in their work and their impact on society. It seemed my problem was not just my problem. It was my entire generation’s problem. What is the millennial job seeker to do?

In B Corps, I found my answer. B Corps are companies that focus both on profits and the public good. Kickstarter, Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s are prominent examples. According to B Lab, the third-party nonprofit that grants the B Corp certification, “B Corps are for-profit companies [that] meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.” Under this framework, people have come together at more than 1,400 companies to use business for good. Today, I am proud to count myself among them.

Working at a B Corp has bridged the gap between bills and passion jobs. Rather than check my values at the door when I get to work, I can magnify my impact by collaborating with like-minded colleagues. In the investment banking industry, this can be quite substantial. Indeed, if three of the independent investment banks had given 5 percent of their 2014 revenue to the Against Malaria Foundation, they could have saved more than 25,000 lives in a single year. Knowing this, our purpose is not just to help our clients achieve long-term success, but also to have a positive, lasting impact on the world. This sense of meaning provides satisfaction beyond a salary and drives true engagement and fulfillment.

Millennials like myself have been telling employers that we want to make both a living and a difference. As we become a larger part of both the consumer and employee pool, employers cannot help but to listen. B Corps is one of the ways in which they have responded, and thanks to this dialogue, businesses are treading a more compassionate path today. More conscious than ever about our shared social responsibilities, people across generations are dismantling the false dilemma that presents a hard choice between money and purpose.

Sergio Reyes, reyess@bu.edu

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