The popular saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” And millennials, more than any other generation before or since, have turned this new-age advice into literal gold.
Described as the “entrepreneurship generation”, more and more millennials are choosing to work for themselves in entrepreneurship ventures rather than pursuing typical employment. From hospitality to specialty retail, from portrait photography and freelance journalism to make up artistry and home maintenance, small business in Australia is booming under the command of the millennials.
This socio-economic trend has gained attention from business analysts, social psychologists and the general public in recent years, and left many experts wondering why; do millennials possess some kind of genetic business-savvy that previous generations didn’t?
Born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s, millennials are the largest and most educated generation in Western history. Also known as Generation Y or “Echo Boomers”, millennials are often characterised as family centric, tech savvy, ambitious, progressive, and compassionate.
However, some of the more negative stereotypes have Generation Y painted as lazy, impatient, narcissistic, entitled and having unrealistic expectations of the workforce due to being rewarded for mere participation during their formative years.
While this unfavourable description isn’t untrue, it is not a factor behind most millennials’ decisions to forgo “typical” employment in order to turn a lifelong passion or talent into a money-making endeavour.
In fact, recent studies have shown that secure employment is the number one concern for Western 20- and 30 somethings; however, a profound consciousness of health, social, economical and environmental issues also means that Generation Y-ers yearn for employment that allows them to feel like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.
In a nutshell, millennials’ idea of work is different from that of baby boomers and Generation X; the purpose of work is not only to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, but also to give life meaning, excitement, and happiness.
And this ideal is widely encouraged throughout modern society, especially in schools where children are often persuaded to identify something they’re passionate about as early as possible so they can incorporate their passion into their careers.
Millennials’ knowledge of technology and the media are also contributing factors towards the increase in small business enterprises.
Described as “digital natives”, because they were the first generation to grow up with constant access to the Internet, Generation Y is aware of the infinite amount of information available online, and they know how to use the Internet to conduct market research and maximise marketing exposure via websites, blogging, social media and other online platforms.
Additionally, 21st century technology has created opportunities for innovative businesses which aren’t as expensive to operate as traditional businesses, such as online retail, as well as eliminating the “gatekeepers” for many other industries, like publishing.
As mentioned above, millennials are family-orientated. And in a society where women are expected to work in addition to raising children (whether she is a single mother or not), an entrepreneurship is the ideal solution for the mothers of this generation.
By allowing parents to work around their family and not the other way around, running a small business from home offers an appealing balance between the millennial ideals of career ambition and familial harmony.
But it is perhaps the Great Recession – a result of the global financial crisis in 2007 – that has had the most significant impact on millennials, by causing historically high levels of unemployment. They are a generation of over achievers – classes of university graduates flipping burgers and working cash registers because there are simply no jobs to apply for.
Although how much long-term economic, social and health damage the Great Recession will have on Generation Y has yet to be fully established, millennials themselves are not sitting around to wait for the consequences to effect them.
Instead, they are taking control of their own financial situations by exploring alternative employment paths, which offers them a form of stability in an unpredictable economy.
So it would appear that it isn’t some mutated business-savvy gene, but instead a combination of unique characteristics and ideals, such as confidence, natural knowledge of technology, socially conscious mindset, desire for stable employment, and even a sense of entitlement, that has made Generation Y the entrepreneurship generation.
Not only could this socio-economic trend, which has fascinated business experts, prove to be economy boosting but it could also finally create the balance between work and family that society has long strived for.
© Tara Jenkinson 2017