On a recent college tour with my teenage son, a professor at a Florida university gave him pointed advice. “Don’t expect to get a job at a company. You’re going to need to be an entrepreneur.” My son didn’t react. While it caught me off guard, he took it as a given.
As college graduates don their robes and caps, they are a generation headed into the real world with a different mindset than my generation or the one before me. They know they may need to forge their own path, and they aren’t intimidated by it.
Today, Millennials, the generation in their 20s, view entrepreneurship as a way to get the freedom to work when and where they choose. They are optimistic and idealistic — and at 80 million strong, they’re going to change the way we all work and think. Empowered by technology, many already have their own side gigs going, biding their time until they can leap out on their own and create the lifestyle and work/life fit they want, according to a new study, “Millennials and the Future of Work.’’
“Even though Millennials view entrepreneurship as presenting obstacles, most of them believe the benefits outweigh downside,” said Dan Schawbel, whose Millennial Branding firm commissioned the survey with oDesk, an online workplace. “They want to be in charge of their own destiny.”
This new Millennial mindset is being stoked by the Internet and encouraged by universities. It will force employers to create entrepreneurial opportunities within their companies.
Out of college just a few years, Anthony Summerlin, 26, already is an entrepreneur. After graduating from the University of Miami, he first went to work in his father’s business, a wholesale auto dealership. But he recently saw an opportunity to go out on his own. Summerlin had been analyzing teams and offering his advice in a public forum on a sports website. He built up more than 2,000 online followers and decided to turn his hobby into an income stream, publishing a website, SweetJones55.com, and a daily sports update, that he delivers electronically to customers’ inboxes. He has more than 1,000 subscribers paying $400 to $1,000 each, and works from his Miami home on his own schedule.
“All I need is a computer with Internet access and I can run my business from anywhere,” Summerlin says. “I love that if something were to come up and I don’t want to work one day, I don’t have to. I love the freedom of being my own boss.”
With the exception of health insurance provided by his parents, Summerlin is making it mostly on his own, earning six figures. For others his age, getting a business going that can sustain them doesn’t come quickly and often requires parental support. Many Millennials are still living at home, are on a parent’s insurance plan and have funded their businesses with start-up money from family.
This generation that grew up involved in after-school activities and told to follow their passion may have student loans, but they want to make money doing things that interest them. And, there never has been a better time to chase a dream. Today there are plenty of young role models and little need to plunk down cash for equipment and real estate. The only thing you need is a computer or smartphone, a connection to the web and a good idea.