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Walking in Between: Making a Positive Impact as a Millennial


By Greg Doyle

“Do you know what you want to do with your life?”

Millennial after millennial is asked this question. Repeatedly. The answers vary. Some disregard the question. Others choose to use it as an opportunity to reflect on their passions, goals and aspirations.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you identify with the latter. These passions, goals and aspirations may be connected to your desire to make a positive impact on the world. Or maybe not. But to those who can relate, I hope to provide some help, advice and context in dealing with this ever-present, and at times annoying, question.

As a recent graduate, I know this question all too well. I enrolled in college as a business major. However, as I began completing the required courses in accounting, finance and marketing, I soon felt unfulfilled. After this realization, I embarked on a quest to combine my interest in business with my passion for helping others.

Here are five things that I learned along the way, which may or may not help you in your own personal journey:

1. Find mentors

Spend some time finding mentors who you feel you can relate to. Target those who you feel have an interesting job or work at an exciting company. Throughout college I would research corporate social responsibility (CSR) leaders at brands I connected with and reached out to them via LinkedIn asking for 15 to 20 minutes of their time. I used these opportunities to learn more about their career path. Each conversation I had helped me clarify my vision for my future professional life.

2. Don't compare yourself to others

While in business school, I often found it hard not to compare myself to others. Most of my classmates were interested in working at big companies, such as General Electric and Aetna, upon graduation. It was common for business students to accept full-time job offers at the end of their junior year.

When I was asked about “my plan,” I often felt inferior because I wasn’t doing similar things. However, eventually people began to respect and support my unique interests and passions. I soon learned the importance of connecting with other business students who were feeling the same way. This allowed me to stay motivated toward my goals, aspirations and vision for my post-grad professional life.

3. Learn as much as possible

In addition to networking, I soon learned the value in new experiences. By exploring opportunities for professional growth, such as internships, conferences and student organizations, I met others who shared similar interests, built a strong resume and, most importantly, further refined my interest in social impact. But learning can be as easy as picking up a book (or reading articles on TriplePundit). Ask your mentors (see No. 1) for suggestions.

4. Recognize "no" as an acceptable answer

It is OKAY to say “no” when asked, “Do you know what you want to do you’re your life?” Industry professionals often ask this, in some variation, when they meet students in interviews, at networking sessions, etc. Instead of saying “yes” and explaining your interest, try saying: “I’m not sure. It is hard for me to say because I have yet to be exposed to all the different opportunities that are out there.”

I used this response constantly throughout my four years in college. Instilling this perspective will allow you to get in the habit of viewing your career interests as an evolutionary process. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. But as soon as I started to view professional development as a constant process, the pressure to come up with “a plan” quickly faded away.

5. Be honest with yourself

Stay committed with your interests. Define your set of values. This will allow you to remain committed to making a difference in the world.

Image Credit: Flickr/Moyan Brenn

Greg Doyle is a Business Development Associate at Good Sports, a nonprofit that helps to lay the foundation for healthy, active lifestyles by providing athletic equipment, footwear, and apparel to disadvantaged young people nationwide. He can be reached at gregory.doyle@uconn.edu. 

3p Contributor

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