Unemployment, student debt, unaffordable housing costs — these are just some of the problems facing the generation about to take the reins of our economy. Millennials are considered to be anyone born between 1982 and 2002, and they are currently more than 80 million strong. A large majority of them are now in their 20s and 30s and anxious to establish careers and start families. Yet, a recent report from Georgetown University outlines what most working-age millennials already know: they are losing ground to previous generations. Writer Ryan Donegan has even labeled them “generation frustration.”
For the last five years, unemployment has remained stubbornly high for millennials. A Harvard study within the past year found just 62 percent of millennials are working, and, of those, half have only part-time jobs. The sad truth is that millennials may never find enough jobs to meet the demand. That’s because today’s rapid pace of innovation is constantly making many jobs obsolete, and there is always a lag before new ones take their place. A 2013 analysis at Oxford University quoted last month in The Economist presents a gloomy forecast, “47% of today’s jobs could be automated in the next two decades.”
Based on my seven decades of business experience, I can see only one solution: millennials must create their own jobs.
The good news is that in several respects, there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur, and millennials are uniquely suited for today’s wired and continually evolving marketplace. After all, they are often referred to as the Net Generation, and according to a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article quoting a Rasmussen College infographic, “60 percent of millennials surveyed consider themselves entrepreneurs, with ideas, capital and plans for startup endeavors.” However, in my opinion and based on the research that Harvard presented outlining that nearly 40 percent of millennials are unemployed, we need a greater number of experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders to step forward to do more to foster entrepreneurship with millennials and fast. That’s why, at age 90, I have not been sitting on the sidelines and continue to push forward where I can to encapsulate what I gained from my successful journey as an entrepreneur into easily shared and accessible materials, like an e-book, that can reach millennials immediately.
When I started my first entrepreneurial enterprise back in 1946, capital requirements and risk factors for new business ventures were much more challenging. Today, basic tech skills and extensive social media experience enable young people to start their journey as entrepreneurs with just a laptop, a few books that offer tips, some business apps, and a WiFi connection. A few keyboard clicks are all they need to reach thousands, even millions of potential customers with the right proposition and story about their brand. When I started my first business, office rent, long distance phone bills, and print and radio advertising costs were all impacting my bottom line.
Now, businesses can be primarily digital and much more cost effective in the start-up phase. Entrepreneurs can launch their businesses from the comfort of their homes and directly monitor transactions, inventory levels, bank balances, etc. Moreover, programmes like Skype allow them to reach suppliers and customers around the world, establishing face-to-face relationships with a minimum of expense and breath-taking immediacy. In addition, they can choose their own work hours and even locate their headquarters in a coffee shop, sending their products anywhere with the help of shipping companies.