Yaneek Page | Are millennials, Generation Z too Lazy for entrepreneurship?
The question as to whether millennials and Generation Z are too lazy for entrepreneurship may make some readers uncomfortable, particularly those born after 1980, but it can promote a useful and timely discussion on present-day career planning.
Last week, the Ministry of Education staged its seventh annual National Careers Week under the theme 'Expanding Horizons for Vision 2030', with a heavy focus on entrepreneurship as a viable career path for young people.
Youth, educators and parents of teenagers and young adults were the main targets of several events and activities, such as school and library expositions, discussions, poster competitions and a public forum aimed at empowering young people to be better at career planning.
During my entrepreneurship presentation at the national public forum on career planning, I raised the issue of whether millennials, who were born between 1980 and 2004, and Generation Z, born after 2004, were cognitively and physiologically prepared for entrepreneurship as a career.
Several studies have shown that millennials are ambitious, passionate, open-minded, bold, tech-savvy, excellent multitaskers, caring of the environment and social impact, highly committed to work-life balance, and more than half want to be their own boss. Those are among the more positive attributes.
However, studies have also categorised millennials as entitled, narcissistic, impatient, individualistic, lazy, lacking in focus, disloyal and needing instant gratification.
While it's true that young people are diverse and that these stereotypes do not apply to everyone, there is value in trying to identify common characteristics of younger generations that will influence their interest and approach to careers. When it comes to entrepreneurship, many millennials have a highly romanticised view of running a business and may not be fully prepared for the harsher realities.
We often refer to entrepreneurship as hard. However, this is an overly simplistic reference to an immensely unpredictable journey that, regardless of the outcome, will greatly impact ones' health, family, finances and overall quality of life.
Entrepreneurship is often pitched to youth as a great way to create their own job and be their own boss. However, initially, the job is usually unpaid and there are several uncompromising and unforgiving bosses who are their customers.
In reality, a career as an entrepreneur is more about selfless service to meet and exceed the needs of customers rather than simply being in charge of a company.
Entrepreneurship is commonly pitched as a career of great freedom and flexibility, but it is one of the most physically demanding career paths, which is not ideal for work-life balance as we work, on average, half-to-two times more hours than our employees on weekdays, and are preoccupied with work even when away from our offices or workspaces.
In many micro and small businesses, the entrepreneur must wear several hats - human resource management, finance, marketing, sales, operations, customer service, new-product development, innovation, and more. This means we are constantly operating in overdrive, trying to manage several business areas that ideally require an extended team to effectively operate.
It takes several gruelling years before many entrepreneurs are able to hire even a fraction of the complement of people needed to grow their operations and achieve some semblance of sustainability.
ENTERPRISE IS STRESSFUL
Young people need to be aware that enterprise is a high-stress career, particularly when operating in highly bureaucratic and challenging business environments, such as that which exists in Jamaica today. High levels of crime, onerous statutory obligations, low levels of economic growth, low GDP per capita, and other factors are among the leading external stressors for many who have chosen entrepreneurship as a career.
In countries with a more favourable business environment than ours, studies have shown that one in three entrepreneurs end up suffering from mental disorders, such as anxiety, as a result of extreme stress on the job.
Finally, one common misconception is that entrepreneurship is a career that is likely to lead to substantial wealth creation. Some may become wealthy, but the vast majority of people who start a business never do, despite having to expend more effort and suffer more stress than many careers.
There is rarely any instant gratification, and despite that it requires discipline and focus especially in the most challenging times. In fact, many entrepreneurs end up struggling to recover financially from failed ventures or not saving enough for retirement and to even meet basic future living expenses. Entrepreneurs tend to rely exclusively on their business as a source of income and have high levels of vulnerability and personal financial exposure related to the high risk of business failure.
There is no doubt that entrepreneurship can be a very rewarding career, and that many millennials have characteristics that will enhance their impact and effectiveness as innovators and business and industry leaders.
However, it is important that young people be empowered with adequate knowledge about the pros and cons of entrepreneurship so that they can make informed decisions that maximise their potential while meeting their personal life needs.