Millennials love, love, LOVE entrepreneurship.
Look at their heroes (Zuckerberg, anyone?), TV programming (Shark Tank, Flip or Flop, All -American Makers), and freelancing lifestyle (find me a millennial that doesn’t know what a 1099 is) – entrepreneurship is everywhere.
But don’t just take my word for it – the Kauffman Foundation reports that 54 percent of millennials either want to start a business or already have started one and the US Chamber of Commerce reported that over a quarter of millennials (27 percent) were already self-employed.
Millennials are turning out to be quite the entrepreneurial generation, as they seriously surpass their predecessors in the start-up arena. BNP Paribas Global reported Millennials have launched about twice as many businesses as boomers have—nearly eight companies each versus three to four for boomers.
A decade ago, millennials’ penchant for trailblazing was commendable – in the height of the Great Recession, it was either create your own job or join the ranks of the unemployed. Many millennials chose the route of entrepreneurship.
Today, the job market for millennials is (reportedly) improving, but many established companies are confused as to why millennial entrepreneurs won’t work for them.
“I would love to hire some millennial entrepreneurs, but they just don’t seem interested in anything we have to offer,” a corporate HR Director expressed to me following one of my millennial seminars.
So why are millennials so very die hard entrepreneurial?
Let’s take a look:
Millennials were treated like sh*t
As a millennial consultant, I’m always amazed at the managing millennial stories that often accompany the purchase of one of my service packages. I mean, does it seriously take an MBA to know that the following statements are totally not cool?
Here’s a few of the things I’ve heard directed towards millennial employees:
- Don’t speak up in a board meeting again – that’s a right that must be earned.
- Serious employees work all day and night if that’s what asked of them.
- All of your personal social media must be approved by our organization.
- Everyone has to do their time with menial work.
I’m sure you could add to that list. The multigenerational workplace (can be) a not-so-friendly environment for millennial professionals. Running your own business has its own set of stressors, but being treated like sh*t by your boss isn’t one of them.
Millennials value purpose over profit
The cool thing about the majority of your life being characterized by a recession is that money loses its luster. Ask any millennial: “What’s the most important pursuit in life?” and nine times out of ten, the answer won’t be “lots and lots money”.
A recent survey by REST Industry Super revealed that over half of millennials would take a hefty pay cut to do something they were passionate about. Millennial professionals approach their work life with a unique criterion – it shouldn’t detract from their personal life and should make (someone’s) life better.
Kayla Buell, millennial author and blogger, recently published an amazing post entitled: Why I’m Taking a Pay Cut and Changing Careers that offers great insight into the driving motivators behind Gen Y’s professional pursuits.
Millennials don’t trust Corporate America
Having experienced corporate corruption at its finest (Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, etc.) coupled with two major market crashes, mortgage bubble burst, and a fourteen year oil war, millennials have officially emerged as the generation that does not trust Corporate America.
Millennials watched as corrupt organizations – both private and public – drained their grandmother’s retirement fund, foreclosed on their childhood home, indebted them for academic degrees that have long since lost value, laid off their parents one year before retirement, and sent their peers to lose the longest war in American history (only to subsequently turn their back on returning veterans and their families).
Millennials no longer trust Corporate America, or anything that resembles any aspect of the organizational contributors to a very dark spot on American history. Why would they want to work for the people that ravaged their world in the name of bottom-line?
Millennials crave autonomy and freedom
A 2016 report by Fidelity found that the average millennial professional would take a $7,600 pay cut for a better work life. Millennials crave schedule autonomy and freedom – they want the ability to experience the things they want to experience, be there for their loved ones, and a not let a job corrode years off their lives. What entrepreneurship may (seemingly) lack in stability and structure, it makes up for in autonomy and freedom.
As a millennial entrepreneur, I don’t have to coordinate my vacation schedule with my employer, I don’t have to “be wired” 24/7 in case my boss needs something after hours, and I don’t have to run everything by someone epitomizing the element of the Peter Principle. I just do what I want to do when I want to do it and it’s freakin’ awesome.
Millennials are caregivers
The latest Millennial Caregiver Report from the National Alliance of Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute show that Millennials (ages 18-34) make up nearly a quarter of the approximately 44 million caregivers in the United States. Some care for aging parents, while others care for grandparents, ill children, and disabled relatives.
The “typical” millennial caregiver is 27 years old, works part-time, has a household income below the national medium, and there is an equal chance that a millennial caregiver identifies as male or female – a distinguishing feature for this generation of care providers. Millennials’ responsibility as primary caregivers isn’t going away – it’s projected only to increase. By the year 2033, Bloomberg predicts working-age Americans (millennials) will support more people over 64 than under 18.
And no one wants to work with the caregiving responsibilities of this very essential sector of society. Millennial professionals tasked with caregivers are discriminated against for their not-so-nine-to-five schedule demands, and are even (legally) terminated when having to extend leave due to a loved one’s hospitalization or medical treatment.
Entrepreneurship allows millennial caregivers to create the perfect schedule for fulfilling both responsibilities – caregiving and working – and has become one of the only options available for those left out in the cold by uncaring organizations.
Millennials prioritize health and work-life balance
Popular corporate culture isn’t current and it healthy. Pick up any medical journal, and note how frequently work-related stressors are cited as “rising epidemics” and “detrimental to health” (including healthcare professions – go figure). Things like “sitting is the new smoking” leaves young professionals thinking, “That’s not cool”, and sourcing work alternatives that will enhance vs. ruin their lives.
In her recent bestseller, The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington details how today’s current work culture was derived from the (now archaic) Industrial Revolution, and how “a workplace created in large measure by men” fails to address the needs of today’s workforce.
As the most health conscious generation in American history, millennials are not about to sell their soul to an employer that doesn’t value their long term health. This means more than employee gym access and health snack bars – millennials recognize the negative consequences of sedentary workdays, high stress environments, sleep deprivation, workplace harassment, and meaningless work.
Millennials: the Entrepreneurial Generation
Millennials’ entrepreneurial inclinations come as no surprise when one considers their early economic experiences, generational divide, Corporate America distrust, need for autonomy, caregiver responsibilities, and cultural commitment to improved work life balance. Embracing entrepreneurial opportunities in all aspects of their lives – from nonprofit crowdfund campaigns, to weekend side hustles – millennials are emerging as the next entrepreneur generation.
Will their dedication to autonomous career crafting evolve as the dominant work environment of the future?
Only time will tell.