Why Are Gen Y Choosing The Entrepreneurial Route?

Generation Y Entrepreneur

‘I’m at entrepreneur’

Sounds quite cool doesn’t it? But why is it the job title ‘owner’ is the 5th most prominent within the Y Generation according to recent studies? (American Express) It’s simple. Millennials are choosing the self employed entrepreneurial route more than ever.

Some say Generation Y are born with the entrepreneurial gene. I would argue that circumstances and experience of their parents lives has driven as such. Companies essentially face a battle to retain key talent instead of that individual ‘going it alone’.

I have seen the process first hand. Employee builds a specific knowledge within their area and then seeks the freelance/self employed route. There’s more confidence today in the ability to self achieve as opposed to the safety net an organisation offers.

Others would argue that it’s not just a choice by Generation Y and is actually a change in society with studies suggesting Boomers are starting up more businesses than their millennial counterparts.  A study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation suggests that it’s Baby Boomers who are actually driving the new entrepreneurship boom with activity surpassing millennials in every single one of the post 15 years.

I would agree that a shift in society and our attitudes to work on a whole more than likely constitute to the entrepreneur rationale.

However we decide to look at this it’s clear that more people are turning their backs on large organisations and moving down the self employment/small agile business route. There are countless commentaries and theories however here are some which really strike a chord in my mind.

Why choose this route?:

Learning from our parents:

As a generation we have lived through our parents and family friends receiving redundancies as well as the cubicle lifestyle most endure at large organisations. Working towards a pension which may never surface all for such a long term dream.

Millennials see a brighter future by potentially pathing our own paths or at least been part of an organisation who understands the goals.  Work/life integration is more prominent than ever and individuals seek those which work with one another; the opposite to what our parents had.

Many are learning from their parents mistakes and choosing a route which matches the type of lifestyle they want to lead.

Job Happiness:

Fulfilled work. It’s estimated that millennials will change their roles once every 3 years on average meaning that as many as 15-20 jobs could be worked by one individual throughout their working career. When you take into account Boomers were working between 1 and 3 jobs then there’s been a significant shift in attitude and trust towards the corporate world.

There’s something here which suggests the work isn’t meaningful. A lack of passion for the company and the job role. Generation Y seek this happiness through their own self employment or entrepreneurial passions. A perceived ‘barrier’ is removed through self employment and a level of self fulfillment is attained.

For many this is what they seek from the workplace.

More agility within the workplace:

I have spoke about creating an agile working environment before and I believe this is one of the attractions to small businesses/entrepreneurship.

Companies lack agility. The same annual leave entitlements for the past 10 years, rigid working hours, office based only. This structure detracts millennials. Start up environments or self employment typically offers a reduction in structure and a more lifestyle focused approach.

There’s a noticeable attraction to this and less of an love for the traditional way of working. As money is less of an overriding factor it’s difficult to see why generation y wouldn’t choose this lifestyle.

Control over own destiny:

We come back to the rigid nature of corporations and how it’s difficult to choose your own career path. Most large corporations still operate under the ladder approach of career advancements whereas Gen Y’s commonly seek a lattice approach.

Within an organisation there’s so many factors constituting to your rise or success. Ultimately the people around you, the market conditions, the perception of you within the workforce all contribute to your destiny.

Entrepreneurship and the self employment allows you to control that destiny as you are the driving force of the direction of your career.


Entrepreneurship offers a sense of diversity which working for a company struggles to offer. Job roles are usually specialisms within a specific field and day to day you will deliver in that chosen area.

Self employment can offer the ‘jack of all trades’ approach and provide diversity within your work day. There’s certainly drawbacks to this however others love the challenge of working across a number of distinctions as opposed to having a specialist skills set.

This has a clear crossover with job happiness and fulfilment and why people are changing jobs regularly. Lack of diversity within a workday can make someone restless. It doesn’t matter how much someone is paid if a job is unsatisfying then it’s difficult to stay engaged.

Workplace of the future

We’ve touched upon this already but the start up/entrepreneur world allows Millennials to create the workplace of the future now. Talk of work life balance will be abolished and work/life integration is the norm. The red tape and restrictive technology will not be present and the ‘make things happen’ attitude will be adopted.

It’s estimated that only 20% of organisations have adopted the Work 2.0 environment (Great Place to work) however those who struggle to get this within the workplace have chosen the route to implement for themselves. The balance and the dynamics of the workplace and creating one in harmony with lifestyle is what generation y seek now as opposed to in the future.

The Mark Zuckerberg Theory:

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past 5 years then you will be aware of Mark Zuckerberg and his impact on the social world. I would also argue the Facebook era and the rise of Zuckerberg are factors in the creation of the entrepreneurial mind set of millennials.
Zuckerberg is a role model as a CEO of one of the largest organisations in the world at the age of 29 (time of writing). He’s a millennial with a millennial way of thinking, conducting business and building a lifestyle. The rise of tech start up’s like Facebook has created this perception that self start up’s are possible for us all and they are a legitimate way of leading the lifestyle you want to live.

There’s many in the line of entrepreneurial success under the millennial flag. Evan Spiegel co founder of Snapchat is only 23 years old at the time of writing. Sure these are large scale success stories but equally are those which are driving others within our generation to choose this route for work/life happiness.

Is the future entrepreneurship/self employment?:

Millennials continue to shape the workforce and we must ask the question whether companies as we know them now are the future of business or whether entrepreneurship and self employment will continue to be attractive to Generation Y. Is comes down to values and the key characteristics of the Generation where fulfilment and self worth within the workplace outweigh financial gains.

Millennials see work more as an avenue to do what they love while earning a living. The fact is most traditional organisations cannot currently match such a life aspiration. They struggle to cater for these core values of the generation.

Because of this generation y are choosing their own path in life; whether this is entrepreneurship via self start ups, businesses with modern ethics or self employment. These new opportunities are what millennials strive for. Entrepreneurship is only just one route but if businesses fail to adapt then it will be a path more key talent from across the globe continues to take.

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About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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