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MBA Careers: Millennials Opt For Social Impact Over Success And Pay

Millennials are more concerned with social impact and work-life balance than climbing to the C-suite and earning a fat pay check.

Tue May 12 2015

The allegedly social-media-addicted generation of selfie collectors is more concerned with social impact and work-life balance than climbing to the C-suite and earning a fat pay check.

These are the key findings of a new study on the career goals of “millennials” – those born between the early 1980s and late 90s.

The St Gallen Symposium, a global conference for leaders, and market research group GfK Verein surveyed more than 1,000 students and professionals from 100 countries.

Nearly 50% of respondents said that work which has a positive impact on society is a top-three criterion for measuring success in their professional careers. Just 14% cited having a high level salary, and 3% cited having power over people.

The findings mirror the shifting attitudes of today’s business students – who are now more interested in using management skills to shape society. The millennial generation dominates today’s business school applicant pool, according to figures from the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

“We have observed over the years that for the current generation of MBA students, the focus is not first and foremost on making money for themselves, but rather on developing a strategy which sets companies and themselves up for long-term success,” said Poul Hedegaard, MBA director at Copenhagen Business School.

Only one-quarter of respondents aim to become a “top-level executive with extensive decision-making authority leading a large team”; a further 25% aim to become a successful project manager.

Instead, 44% of the survey takers would define success as becoming a well-known expert in their field.

“The leaders of tomorrow are no longer all aspiring to get into top management, but they certainly want to make a difference,” said Dr Johannes Berchtold, COO of the St Gallen Symposium.

This is underlined by the fact that two-thirds are planning to become entrepreneurs within the next five years. “This may be... because they see this as a better chance to make their ideas and innovations a reality,” added Johannes.

When choosing employers, ethical aspects are important – six out of ten respondents would not work for a company with values they don’t share.

Respondents also showed much less interest in previous industry experience or having graduated summa cum laude from a top university when picking members for their project team.

“Today’s managers are overestimating the value of their ‘analogue’ experience in a digital world that is increasingly functioning under a new set of rules,” said Andreas Neus, deputy managing director at GfK Verein and author of the study.

The findings echo a similar survey by INSEAD, the global business school, last year, which found that 73% of millennials chose work-life balance over a higher salary, and 82% value work-life balance over their position in a company.

This generation is placing more value in entrepreneurialism and fulfilment, which has implications for careers. Particularly at banks, some of the brightest graduates are turning to smaller, more innovative organizations.

A number of top academic institutions are catering to these changes. London School of Economics last month announced plans to open a £30 million centre in the UK capital dedicated to social entrepreneurship.

Across Britain, similar centres are set-up at Cass Business School and at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. In the US, Stanford GSB runs the Center for Social Innovation; Kelley School of Business has the Global Social Entrepreneurship Institute.

At Saïd Business School over half of the current MBA class is actively involved with social impact activities. Derek Walker, director of careers, said: “A career which includes creating positive social impact is definitely becoming a mainstream choice for MBA students internationally.”

He said that students take a variety of approaches towards careers in this sector – “some moving into a social impact role after a more traditional initial job, others head that direction immediately after graduation”.

The growth in interest in social impact is echoed in the wider business community. Despite pressure from shareholders, increasing numbers of corporations are realigning their business plans with social and environmental goals.

But MBAs often find the route to securing a role focused on social impact off-putting, preferring to find jobs at established MBA employers, such as financial services companies and consultancy firms.

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School




On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.




On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.




On Campus


I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London




On Campus


The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.




On Campus


The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather




On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.




On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.




On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.




On Campus

Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society