Compassionate Careers Helps Millennials Make a Difference While Making a Paycheck

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“A lot of young people express interest in wanting to make a difference in the world, but most of them don’t have a plan,” says Jeffrey Pryor, a professor at Regis University and the University of Colorado and CEO of Pathfinder Solutions, an organization dedicated to providing research and training on talent development to nonprofits and other organizations.

As some 75 million baby boomers prepare to leave the workforce and about 80 million millennials get ready to enter it, Pryor took a closer look at nonprofit employers with the help of Alexandra Mitchell, president of Pathfinder Solutions, a fellow CU professor and a former high school teacher.

In 2010 the duo surveyed 2,500 Colorado and Louisiana nonprofits, looking at what Pryor calls “the talent pipeline.” The question, Pryor explains, was whether or not nonprofits are prepared for the major workforce shift that’s about to happen. Major private-sector employers, Pryor explains, begin scouting with a five-year lead-time for talent. “We believe the average nonprofit has about a five-minute lead-time,” says Pryor.

While the nonprofit sector employs about 10 percent of the Colorado workforce in an array of fields from human and environmental rights to the arts, there’s very little attention given to the industry. That’s something Pryor and Mitchell hope to change by inspiring young people to pursue the careers they’re actually passionate about.

But while millennials might be looking for more meaning and purpose in their work, these folks will also have to make ends meet while possibly paying off a mountainous pile of student loans and saving for retirement. That’s where Compassionate Careers: Making a Living By Making a Difference comes in. This guidebook, with a forward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, helps newcomers find purpose-driven work with 100 straightforward stories and tips from everyday heroes and international icons, including Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall and Dave Matthews. The inspiration doesn’t end  in print; Pryor and Mitchell add stories to their website every day. 

Starting in 1993, Pryor and Mitchell began surveying students at 100 Colorado high schools, seeking out the ten topics most frequently discussed in the hallway. Many young people, the duo discovered, are interested in do-good jobs. “But most aren’t aware of the variety of compassionate careers that exist,” Pryor says. In fact, according to the survey, 96 percent of today’s nonprofit and foundation leaders report the nonprofit sector was never suggested to them by teachers or guidance counselors.

Compassionate Careers preps both organizations and individuals, offering a variety of resources for exploring and landing a compassionate career. There’s also an online assessment to help readers discern the organizational culture for which they are best suited.

The book launches Monday, March 23, and will be on the shelves at Tattered Cover and Barnes & Noble bookstores. It’s also available online through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and if you purchase a copy directly through the Compassionate Careers website, Pryor and Mitchell will give a book to GOAL Academy, an alternative school for Coloradans. For more information, visit the Compassionate Career website, or follow the authors on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.

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