Today’s college grads want work that speaks to their values and interests. They’ve learned from prior generations that “killing yourself to do everything for your employer” doesn’t always pay off.They’re pursuing side hustles and freelancing rather than settling down at big companies.LoadingSomething is loading.Thanks for signing up!Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you’re on the go. download the appCollege grads used to want to big money from a big company. Now they want to work for passion or themselves.On Tuesday, a panel of HR experts discussed a recent survey finding that the majority of college students getting their bachelor’s degrees in May 2023 are willing to take a pay cut to work at a company that suits their personal values and interests. Most are even planning on side hustles and freelancing to pursue their dreams.”The generational view of what success looks like” has changed, with “the value of experience being more important than the value of material things,” Angelique Bellmer Krembs, marketing expert at consulting company A.Team and former Pepsi executive, told Insider. According to the Pollfish survey of 500 college students in the class of 2023, 65% said they’d work for slightly lower pay if it meant working at a company whose mission aligned with their personal values. And 25% said that this alignment was the most important factor in their job search, second only to the possibility of remote work.”That translates, I think, into what job do you want to say that you got,” Krembs said. “It’s not necessarily the one that pays you the most money, but it’s also the one where you can talk about these cool things that you’re doing or these great people that you’re meeting or these places you’re going.”Gen Z, made up of those who were born between 1997 and 2012, is progressive and pro-government, concerned about human-caused climate change, and sees the nation’s racial diversity as a good thing, much like their Millennial forebears, according to Pew Research Center. Perhaps Gen Zers can afford to prioritize their values. They are already known to quit their jobs for better pay and work-life balance. According to a 2022 survey by the recruitment company Randstad, 40% of Gen Z respondents said they would rather be unemployed than in a job they didn’t like.Today’s availability of jobs mean Gen Z can afford work that pays less. Not to mention, the rise of remote work means “you’re not forced to live in the most expensive city,” Krembs said.The company career is endingJoe Lazer, A.Team’s head of marketing who moderated the panel, suggested that Gen Z has learned from their Millennial elders who worked for years at a large company like Google just to get laid off earlier this year. Today’s grads “want balance there and to pursue the things that really matter to” them, “as opposed to just devoting like your whole, whole self and working 60 hour weeks for your employer, like in search of this reciprocation that may not actually occur,” he said.The generational shift goes back even further, Wagner Denuzzo, who’s led future of work research at companies like Prudential Financial and IBM, told Insider.Gen Z’s “parents are those who worked like 14 hours a day to make a good living,” he said. “Those parents were the ones who give everything to be successful professionally. Many of them retired and they don’t know what to do with free time.””We’re all watching what happened to those who sought status in the high-paying jobs,” he said. The preference of today’s grads for passion over payment “is an emotional reaction to what they see” because “they want to be more connected,” he said. “It’s not the job hunt that’s gonna make them feel stable. I think they’re looking to friends, social networks, and they’re feeling stable in a different way than we did.” Importantly, the survey found 70% of respondents would take a pay cut to work with teammates they love.Mission-oriented work is “enabled by social media,” Jenny Dearborn, who’s led HR at companies like Hewlett-Packard and SAP, told Insider.”If you just imagine the post, ‘Hey, I just got this job. Here’s the cool thing I’m doing. I’m helping the world this way,'” she said, “You’re gonna click likes more for something that connects emotionally in a positive way as opposed to, ‘Hey, I work in finance at Goldman'” making six figures.Companies are struggling to appeal to Gen ZJust after Gen Z started graduating from college and entering the workforce, large companies started making progressive commitments. It would suggest they are competing for today’s college grads on mission and values. In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, CEOs from Pfizer to HP announced plans to donate to charities supporting racial equity and eliminate racial bias in hiring. In 2021, BlackRock promised to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, part of the company’s move towards an Environmental, Social, and Governance investing strategy.But many of those companies are finding that new grads aren’t convinced. “Bigger companies are really struggling having to sell their brand of why a young person would wanna go there and just get swallowed up and feel like a number in a giant, you know, sea of employees,” she said.Smaller or mid-size companies, like in the startup world, are “where people are trying to make their own boundaries, you know, make their own game,” Krembs said.Perhaps unsatisfied with the big companies on offer, Gen Z is taking on side hustles and freelancing to work towards their values and interests.The survey reported that 68% of 2023 grads are considering starting their careers freelancing, even though 83% already have jobs lined up after graduation. In addition, 75% plan to pursue a side hustle on top of their full-time jobs, and 61% want to turn that side hustle into their full-time job or become an entrepreneur. Some might use that side hustle to support their full-time passion.Dearborn said her 22-year-old daughter has a full-time job as a paralegal in the district attorney’s office after she graduates this May. “It’s $40,000 a year before taxes and she can’t survive on that in Boston, so she has her side hustle” working as a babysitter two nights a week.Denuzzo thought the side-hustle culture pointed to workers becoming their own employers.”Workers are gonna take their profiles to themselves,” he said. “Right now, they’re all dependent: Your learning, all certifications, your history, your gigs, everything is dependent on the company you are. That’s gonna change.””Benefits are gonna be extricated for the corporate world, and people will literally have choices on how to pursue a career that fits their lifestyle,” he predicted.Have you quit your job or turned down offers for mission-oriented work? Share your story with email@example.com.