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For Some Millennials, the Work Party Starts This Spring

Now in its sixth year, Deloitte's alternative spring-break event initiates college students in the company's culture and commitment to causes.

March 8, 2013
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Plenty of college students will spend spring break partying on Florida's beaches. But riding the wave of social consciousness among the millennial generation, consultancy Deloitte is bringing dozens of students to the Sunshine State for alternative spring event, where they'll work alongside Deloitte employees in community projects.

It's the consultancy's way of starting the recruiting process early—paying the way each year for dozens of high-caliber students to volunteer their time helping others while giving them an education about the company and its culture.

"We demonstrate our brand through action," says Diane Borhani, director of campus recruiting for the company, which places a high value on giving back to the community.

That fits in with the values of many millennials who want to work for a company that is socially aware, says Megan Gerhardt, associate professor at Miami (Ohio) University's Farmer School of Business. "It's not only that they want meaningful work; they want a place to develop their social agenda and consciousness."

She compares them to the baby boomers who also grew up with strong social mores. While older boomers were fighting for civil and equal rights in the 1960s and '70s, millennials are championing the environment and social equality.

Deloitte started its spring-break program, called Maximum Impact, in 2008, and so far has brought hundreds of college sophomores to various alternative spring-break locations. Borhani says the focus is on sophomores because "students are making [career] choices earlier in their academic careers."

This year more than 1,500 students applied for the 73 spots Deloitte had available for its alternative spring-break projects. This spring, one group of students will work with the United Way in Miami, while the other will work with Teach for America in Memphis, Tennessee. Deloitte foots the bill, paying for airfare, lodging and meals.

When they apply, students must write an essay about their commitment to giving back and detail their volunteer experience. The top contenders also are interviewed to gauge their leadership skills and ability to work in teams, Borhani says. So far the company has hired nearly 150 students who first came to the company's attention through the Maximum Impact program.

One of those hired was Sara Ferguson, who took part in the Maximum Impact 2009 trip to Galveston, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Ike. The group, which was a mix of college students and Deloitte employees, did everything from repairing homes to assisting in preparing tax returns.

Ferguson, who has worked at Deloitte for a little more than a year as an audit senior assistant, says the trip helped her "learn a lot about the values, core beliefs and culture" of the company. "I was surrounded by individuals who were really dedicated to their profession. They were individuals who I wanted to be surrounded by and work with in the future."

Her experience with alternative spring break led to an internship and then a full-time job with the company. "I don't believe I'd be where I am today without this trip."

Gerhardt says Maximum Impact is a good way to get the attention of college students. By sending both students and Deloitte employees on alternative spring break, the company "sends the message they are walking the walk," Gerhardt says.

She also sees it as a way to foster loyalty to the company. That may happen through students going to work for Deloitte, or by encouraging millennials, who are known for their job-hopping, to stay with the company longer. "Everyone remembers when someone invests in them."

Susan Ladika is a writer based in Tampa, Florida. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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