According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, millennial students increasingly value opportunities in government agencies and nonprofits. Its latest survey reports that 61 percent of all internships during the 2010-2011 school year were in those sectors.
Indeed, college faculty members who replied to queries for this article reported that their current students are — more than any other in recent memory — looking for safe-bet careers and trending away from the for-profit sector. “There’s certainly a willingness to work for government amongst millennials,” says Mike Hais, a former political pollster for the Democratic Party, and co-author of the new book, “Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America.” “That’s a big shift from proceeding generations. Boomers, to a considerable degree, were not comfortable in government, and Generation X was very anti-institutional. But if you ask millennials what their ideal employer is, hi-tech is at the top, but then it’s the State Department, the CIA and Teach For America. There weren’t many Baby Boomers in the ’60s that wanted to work for the CIA.”
Does this point to a pragmatic millennial zeitgeist, or is it simply a natural response to a disastrous economy? The two might go hand in hand. “We’ve noticed more students coming in before the semester begins worried about their choice of major, career-wise,” says Anthony Ciarleglio, director of cooperative education and internships at Western Connecticut University. “They’re more accepting of the public sector, because they see a secure job there.”
While millennials are especially interested in nonprofit and community service work, they’re also aware of their résumés.
“Boomers were very idealistic and ideologically driven — looking for the solution that ‘feels right for me.’ Generation X was very practical and pragmatic: ‘I’m on my own. The only person that will watch out for me is me.’ Millennials have a combination,” explains Morley Winograd, Hais’ co-author on “Millennial Momentum.” “They value community service because they want to change the world, but they’re not going to do it if it won’t help them through the next hurdle of life.”