Students start small to go big

Most students enter the higher education system with one goal and that is to secure their career aspirations. A good career has always been driven by an employment opportunity which offers good financial returns and high social status. This was true in the past and continues to prevail to a great extent in the present.

However, entrepreneurship is now emerging as a career opportunity. Entrepreneurship offers a high reward but comes loaded with high risks. For the generation of yesteryear, entrepreneurship was always considered to be a privilege of those who came from rich business families or a desperate attempt of those who were not able to find a good employment opportunity. Today, this notion is changing rapidly. Graduating students are aspiring to be founders or co-founders as they are willing to take the risk irrespective of their family’s financial status. Educational institutions, on the other hand, are creating opportunities on their campus for incubating ventures and are proudly claiming accolades for graduating ventures as part of their convocation ceremonies. This leads one to wonder, what is causing this change?

According to Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd, “Millennials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be balanced by it. They want to work to afford them opportunities to make new friends, learn new skills and connect to a larger purpose. That sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction; according to our research, they are the most socially conscious generation since the 1960s.”

In my view, it is this changing attitude of the new generation that is causing the change. In the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation emerges as a need when psychological, safety, love or belonging and the needs of esteem have been met. However, when one looks at the millennials, they seem to be more focused on self-actualisation even as they start their careers.

Purpose-driven youth

The hierarchical systems of the legacy corporations require its employees to grow through the ranks and perform as per the standard operating procedures laid out by quality management systems that are archaic. The millennials are used to immediate gratification, and the hierarchical structure coupled with the annual appraisal systems lead to delayed recognition. The legacy corporations are obsessed with their age-old missions without evaluating the relevance of the same and normally resist changing them as long as their financials continue to deliver returns. This is a straight disconnect for the millennials as they are more purpose-driven. The inertia in such organisations creates an environment which is not conducive to learning and this again becomes a deterrent for the millennials. 

Compare this with the start-up ecosystem which emerged and matured in the last two decades. There are plenty of investors who are willing to risk capital on new ideas. The ideas are measured not only by financial returns but also by the impact on society and the disruption that they can cause in the marketplace.

This provides a fantastic platform for millennials to convert their dreams and aspirations into reality. The ecosystem provides for mistakes and gives chances for pivoting plans when they hit a roadblock. Failure is accepted gracefully here and there are many instances where entrepreneurs have got multiple chances to pursue their dreams and there are many stories where such entrepreneurs have become successful after a couple of failed attempts. Such safety valves cover up for the enhanced risks associated with entrepreneurship and fuel the imagination of the millennials to innovate and seek adventure by laying the foundation for a new economic paradigm.

Start-ups have scaled to be unicorns in 5 to 10 years after pivoting their plans once or maybe twice in this short period. A dynamic system such as this provides plenty of opportunities to learn and satiates the craving for learning. The millennials are smart and understand that failure results in learning and success results in achievement. They believe that the risk is nullified by learning as every failure tends to make them smarter and prepares them to succeed. 

Considering the advantages that the new start-up ecosystem has to offer, the employment opportunities of legacy corporations seem to be pale. Thus, it is a no-brainer for the aspirational millennials to embark on this journey. 

 (The author is with IFIM institutions)

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Students start small to go big

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