Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about millennials. Last summer, I chipped in when I wrote a post claiming that recent college graduates are pretty clueless. And while that might be true, I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses in the last year and have learned something else: They worry too much.
Truthfully, they have a lot to worry about. Today’s young person carries all the baggage of previous generations: a desire to please their parents, societal expectations and the pressure to get a job. There’s (a lot) more, however. The typical college graduate carries nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. That’s 10 percent higher than it was just a year earlier.
And it is becoming increasingly harder to get the job that will help pay off those loans. Whereas members of previous generations competed for jobs with the kids sitting at neighboring desks, millennials are competing with people across the globe who are learning to speak English. They are up against billions of PHDs (Poor, Hungry and Driven) who have never heard the word “weekend.” Yet, today’s young people have the drive to contribute, not just work.
Carrying more than a few worries. Nonetheless, millennials on average report higher stress levels than any other demographic group.
While millennials have a lot more to worry about than their parents did, there are advantages to entering the professional world of the 21st century. My father worked for 35 years for two companies. For his generation, the road to success was linear and well defined. Within that static framework, the winners were those who understood and followed the rules. Playing it safe and working within the system was how you received your reward over time. One mistake, one wrong move, and your progress stalled.
Today, the rules of the game change constantly. Technologies, industries and competition change in the blink of an eye. Who heard of Uber or Bitcoin just a couple of years ago? These are just a few examples of companies or new technologies that are disrupting markets. The linear career path of generations past looks more like a corkscrew today. As a result, millennials can take career risks that their parents would never have considered, iterating and redirecting themselves multiple times along the way.
That’s why all young graduates should seriously consider working for a startup.
Startups wanting what you’ve got. Growing up in this constantly changing world has produced a generation of rapid learners. Access to vast amounts of information (anytime, anywhere) can turn a novice into a relative expert in a matter of weeks, not years. Online resources like Khan Academy and coding boot camps like Launch Academy are turning English teachers into ruby or mobile app developers. Your ability to adapt is your greatest asset. It is also the single most necessary characteristic for succeeding in a startup.
Your short attention span is ready-made for the pace of change at startups. Your job today, if you’re good, will be dramatically different in a few months. (This article is probably being read on a 4-inch screen, so I’ll keep this point brief.)
Offering independence, innovation and impact. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey, young people today expect more from their work than any previous generation. While larger, established employers have struggled to provide these three “I’s”, startups require employees to work independently, create innovative solutions and produce an immediate impact.
Yes, you have college loans to repay. You likely don’t have a mortgage, kids or a 401(k) to worry about (yet), however. You can take a chance. What’s more, the experiences you’ll gain at a startup will help you succeed even if you later decide to join a more corporate environment.
Truth be told, large corporations value these characteristics as much as startups. The large companies have finally learned that they must adapt or face certain failure. I’m on my ninth job in 16 years and have made at least one distinct career pivot. I’ve made tons of mistakes and learned from every one.
Twenty years ago, I would be have been labeled a flake, a job hopper. Through this journey, I’ve learned and adapted my way to a rewarding career that I love. There are many paths to happiness, but all of them start with that first step. Whatever path you choose, spend less time worrying and get out there and break things.
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