Why Solopreneurship Appeals to Millenials?

Millennials Jam Workshop: Youth and ICTs beyond 2015. Photo by ITU Pictures.

Not to be confused with an entrepreneur, a solopreneur is a business owner who manages and oversees his or her entire business alone.

Solopreneurs are involved in every aspect of their business from the administrative to the marketing to the technical. The success or failure entirely falls on their shoulders. However, while there is great risk in being a solopreneur, there is also the chance for great reward. Both the risks and potential rewards are what appeal to the millennial generation.

Millennials, sometimes called Generation Y or Generation We, are tech-savvy, curious, work-life balance believers and known multitaskers to name a few characteristics. Though generational start and end dates can be arbitrary, many would agree anyone born from 1980 to 2000 is a millennial.

In 2013 Time Magazine published an article titled Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation by Joel Stein. The article provided an arguably critical view on the generation. Stein described millennials as “lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow.” Throughout the article, Stein referred to statistics and studies as evidence for his statements.

Stein wrote, “The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.”

There was pushback to Stein’s publication including a Linkedin article by Lydia Abbot titled 11 Millennials’ Traits You Should Know About Before Your Hire Them. Abbot, who works as a Blog Editor & Content Marketer at Linkedin, graduated from college the same week Stein’s piece was published. While Stein took a more negative stance on millennials, Abbot had a more diplomatic view writing, “The reality must fall somewhere in between.”

Later in the piece, Abbot explains how what many perceive as the negatives of millennials can be used as positives for employers and what employers should consider when hiring millennials.

Instant Gratification & Recognition

  • Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important and that they are on the right track. Yes, it sounds a little needy…and it is. But many Millennials grew up with constant praise from their Baby Boomer parents. It’s what they know.
  • What this means for you: During the recruiting process, tell Millennial candidates about how important the position is and that they will be making a valuable contribution to the company. Once hired, recognize their accomplishments publicly. While working at PwC, Sondra Dryer did this by implementing a milestone rewards program. This type of recognition encourages Millennials to work hard and increases their job satisfaction.”

While recognizing millennials can be narcissistic as Stein said, Abbot explained this narcissism comes from a desire “to feel like what they are doing is important and that they are on the right track.” Millennials want their work to have a purpose, to feel like they are contributing to something larger than themselves. It’s this “narcissism” which makes millennials ideal for solopreneurship.

Solopreneurs primarily work alone, aside from outsourcing certain tasks, so they must be passionate about their work. This passion is the equivalent of millennials’ need to feel their work is having a larger, more significant impact.

This equivalency is apparent when one looks at how millennials spend their time.

Achieve’s 2015 Millennial Impact Report cited, “ 84% of Millennial employees made a charitable donation and 70% spent at least one-hour volunteering in 2014. Millennials tend to view markers of success differently than prior generations.”

Additionally, a 2015 Kauffman Foundation study concluded that “54% of Millennials either want to start a business or have already started one.”

Based on both these studies, millennials are a generation driven by giving back, passion, and an interest in doing it themselves. This all lends itself to solopreneurship where “you choose everything about your business,” according to a 2015 article on Entrepreneur.com.

While millennials enjoy having the final decision, they also value connection and collaboration. Unlike entrepreneurs who hire employees, solopreneurs outsource jobs for which they do not have the skillset. They still connect, collaborate, and support other solopreneurs and entrepreneurs, while maintaining their autonomy.

Millennials are also a value-based generation. A 2015 White House Council of Economic Advisors study identified that “millennials value quality of life, including staying close to family and friends; having free time for experiences and recreation, and working in creative jobs.”

Because solopreneurs choose their schedule and their workload, they can determine their work-life balance. Whether they want to spend more or less time working is their decision. The flexible life of a solopreneur is perfect for a generation who holds this value.

The Stein-Abbot middle ground where millennials fall is what makes them both effective employees, as well as natural solopreneurs. Whether millennials choose to follow their “solopreneurial” mindset or not could leave open jobs for the following generation, Generation X, or create new outsourcing opportunities.

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