By 2020, young adults born between 1976 and 2001 will account for half the working population, according to a study by University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Young Entrepreneur Council.
Gen Y's jump into the working world has been stifled by the Great Recession, underemployment and high student loan obligations, but here's the thing—they're guided by relentless perseverance and optimism to succeed. "Ultimately, millennials believe that they deserve something better, and they're not afraid to create it themselves—which is why they're the most threatening and exciting generation ever," Aimee Groth wrote in Business Insider.
The following five young leaders are some of these millennials who have set the bar so high.
1. Scott Walker (Co-founder, Underwater Audio)
Imagine what the market demand might be among swimmers for waterproof iPod shuffles. That's what Scott Walker thought in 2011 when he was a college junior at Brigham Young University. He tested his idea by inventing a new method to waterproof swimmer-friendly gadgets including headphones, earphones and iPod Shuffles. As it turns out, he was on to something big. “[During Christmas 2011], the demand was almost impossible for us to keep up with,” Walker said in The Daily Barometer. “The success has been phenomenal.” In 2012, Underwater Audio held the #2 spot in market share for waterproof gadgets.
2. Erica Swallow (Technology Journalist and Digital Strategist)
A LinkedIn recommendation from journalist and entrepreneur Ben Parr perhaps puts it best: "Erica Swallow isn't a talent; she's a force of nature." She started off strong, as a student at New York University's Stern School of Business, landing a coveted social media internship with The New York Times in 2008. There she helped design the news giant's social media strategy. In the last five years, she's evolved into a true startup thought leader and doer, holding editorial posts at Mashable, starting her own consulting company, designing PR strategies and contributing content to Business Insider, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post and Forbes. Today, she's the community and PR manager at WeHostels, and she'll be starting an MBA program at MIT's Sloan School of Management in the fall.
3. Raphaël Paulin-Daigle (Owner, Shopulse)
As an elementary school student, Raphaël Paulin-Daigle realized that he had one dream in life—to become an entrepreneur. By age 11, he had already launched a successful business as a professional magician. Today, the Moncton, Canada, teenager is building Shopulse, a platform to solve small-business owners' inventory management problems at massive scale.
4. Elizabeth Yin (Co-founder, LaunchBit)
Elizabeth Yin's new venture, LaunchBit, is bringing the world of email advertising to startups. After teaching herself to code at a young age and pursuing a brief stint in engineering post-Stanford University, she completed an MBA at MIT. These days she's building customer acquisition plans, actively fundraising to grow her business and evaluating her company's ideal market fit. Yin's smarts, passion, strength and perseverance are a true inspiration to up-and-coming leaders.
5. Danielle Fong (Co-founder & Chief Scientist, LightSail Energy)
It's an understatement to say that Danielle Fong is brilliant. At age 12, she enrolled at Dalhousie University to study physics and computer science, and at 17, she enrolled at Princeton University for her PhD. Now in her mid-20s, she's leading a team of scientists to develop regenerative air energy storage technology. Danielle possesses a rare combination of extreme intelligence, tenacity and work ethic. In other words, she's armed to succeed.
Millennials, boomers and everyone in between: The world is yours. Keep pushing, stay confident and let the leaders of today inspire you beyond your wildest expectations.
Read more articles on leadership.
Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, Internet culture and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship and sociology.