Generation Y: A Generation of Entrepreneurs

A new study reveals that the 18 to 24 demographic is more entrepreneurially spirited than ever.
Business Writers
January 09, 2012

Generation Y might be more entrepreneurial than anyone thought. The folks at Millennial Branding and analytics firm Identified teamed up to comb through millions of Facebook profiles and discovered where folks aged 18 to 29 are working. They found a few surprises about the economic life of America’s young workforce.

The survey results, to be released today, found that the job title “owner” is the fifth most popular one listed by folks under 30. This showed the researchers that young people are starting or running their own businesses or freelancing. Even though most of their companies won’t succeed, they are demonstrating “an unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit,’’ says Dan Schawbel,  Millennial Branding’s managing partner. Schawbel, an OPEN Forum contributor and himself a Gen-Y(er), started his all-things-branding business in 2010.

The most often-cited job titles are server (think waiter), manager (of restaurants or retail stores), intern and sales associate. “It’s not surprising,’’ Schawbel says. “They’re having a tough time getting jobs and some of them are bartending and waitressing and starting side businesses. They’re doing what they love and not having to work for a big company.’’

Researchers found that just seven percent of those surveyed listed worked for a Fortune 500 company. Schawbel says young people are opting not to work in the corporate environments that employ their parents. "Their parents spent decades working at big companies. They didn’t want to do the same thing," Schawbel says. "They don’t want to work at a cubicle with 500 people around them."

"Young people like the flexibility," of working for small companies, he says. “From day one they can make a big impact.’’

The single employer most-often cited was the U.S. military. It’s not surprising, Schawbel says, because of it’s great need for youth. “They have the biggest budget for recruiting Gen-Y,’’ Schawbel adds. Most Facebook users in the survey were part of the sprawling travel and hospitality industry. Big employers most often cited included the nation’s biggest chains, such as WalmartStarbucks and Target.

Number crunchers at Identified looked at four million Facebook profiles, of which one million listed a recent job entry, says Eliza Walsh, a spokeswoman for Identified. Management consulting firms Accenture and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu ranked in the Top 20.

Schawbel says Millennial and Identified plan to keep the project going. They’re going to sift through data listed by other generations and compare it. An upcoming project is aimed at finding how graduating students are getting jobs and what employers are looking for.

“It’s going to be interesting, for sure,’’ Schawbel says.

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