Can Millennials Save the Economy?

Blame it on the Dems, blame it on the GOP, blame it on the eh-eh-eh-eh-economy, but the buck has stopped here and we can officially say the old formula is broken. Hard Work + Good Education = Employment and Job Security no longer holds true for our generation. With the global economy in a tailspin, it isn’t surprising that more than 13% of 18 to 29-year olds are unemployed, as of July 2011. It’s also not news to anyone that many unemployed or under-employed Gen Y’s have college degrees and mountains of debt.

Instead of sulking and waling in the corner, however, we are a group dead-set on creating opportunities and options for ourselves, be it interning or slaving away to make ends it meet. We are not lazy! And isn’t it time our government stopped looking at us like spoiled children and started giving us the means to create our own jobs?

Why are Gen Y’ers drawn toward entrepreneurship?

Perhaps a slew of corporate scandals and recession downsizing produced a lack of faith in large institutions amongst Millennials, or at least that’s what author and journalist Donna Fenn said in a recent MSNBC post, appropriately called “Start-Up Generation Ready to fix the Economy.” But is this lack of faith enough to create enough entrepreneurs for economic stimulus?

Plenty of unemployed Millennials would be happy to be hired by large corporations. The problem is they can’t find job offers. When unemployment is high, Corporate America has its pick of candidates to fill open positions. Overqualified candidates with years of experience are willing to take entry-level positions just to have a job, leaving most recent grads with little corporate experience and no experience competing with seasoned professionals for jobs.

It might not be too much of a stretch to say the qualities that characterize Gen Y make us excellent entrepreneurs. We’re creative and have high energy for the start-up phase. Risk isn’t a deterrent since Millennials recognize the risk inherent in corporate jobs too. We’re optimistic about their chances for success (perhaps because our Boomer parents constantly told us we could be anything they wanted to be). This optimism, combined with ambitions to create something of lasting value will allow us to succeed as business creators.

“This is a generation of serial entrepreneurs,” said Fenn, who believes Gen Y really can have an effect on the economy, echoing a slew of similar articles that circulated for years.

But now what? Do we need legislation to help Millennials save the economy?

Some, like Scott Gerber, 27, are advocating for a debt forgiveness program that will empower Millennials to start more businesses. Gerber’s Young Entrepreneur Council “promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment,” and is, according to the same MSNBC post, “proposing a Youth Entrepreneurship Act that would address the barriers [Gerber] says young entrepreneurs face. One element would be a program to forgive student loans and debt for young entrepreneurs, which he says would address a major hindrance to recent graduates who want to set up their own shop.”

But should we really rely on a government with an enormous deficit for funds? Isn’t relying on government aid a risky solution?

Perhaps what held previous generations back from starting their own businesses was a lack of money. But when money is tight, committed entrepreneurs who have great ideas will find ways to use the resources they have (mainly time and people) to show what they can do.  Tough economies weed out those who don’t have the stomach for new ventures, allowing those who will likely be successful to flourish.

Instead of thinking about how the government can throw money at Gen Y ventures, we should think about how to train them to be successful in their ventures.

Millennials have proven we have an appetite for entrepreneurial risk in difficult economies. Let us show what we can do with limited resources and investors will give money to those business ideas with real potential.

What do you think? Should the government forgive debt for entrepreneurs? Tell us in the comments!

Lindsay Hunt I'm a boomerang kid exploring alternate career paths in an attempt to escape the confines of cubicle life. I'm analytical, creative, stubborn, persistent, friendly and adventurous. I love my road bike, coffee, red wine, the Denver Broncos, chocolate, skiing, the Rocky Mountains, gum and my iPod. Twitter: @theboomerangkid

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5 Responses to “Can Millennials Save the Economy?”

  1. Jamie

    The old formula of education and hard work =success no longer holds true? Bullshit! I had to stop reading there. But I bet I wouldn’t be far off to guess you go on to call on the govt to spend and legislate our way out of unemployment. That’s the problem with America. We need to be responsible for ourselves and not act like entitled dependent brats. I’m willing to bet that the hard working, motivated people in America are working. That leaves the rest of us to whine and ask for handouts. /end preach. Go be an entrepreneur on your own motivation. Don’t depend on others.

  2. Lindsay

    I think you misunderstood the point I’m trying to make. The old formula went something like this: if I work really hard and get good grades, I’ll get into a good college. If I get into a good college and work really hard, I’ll get a good job. If I get a good job and work really hard, I’ll make money and have job security.

    Unfortunately, in a down economy, hard work, good grades and a good education don’t automatically qualify you for a job. Many recent graduates during the recession can attest to this.

    The point of my article (which maybe you would have seen if you kept reading) is that entrepreneurship is a great alternative for those who can’t find jobs or who are willing to work hard to succeed. In fact, those who are willing to put in an effort to succeed in a down economy will find more opportunities as entrepreneurs.

    The question about the government spending for entrepreneurial ventures comes from recent advocates who have been lobbying for debt forgiveness or special investments. Personally, I don’t think these measures are necessary. Not only does our government not have the money to spend, but I believe that entrepreneurs (especially GenY entrepreneurs) are scrappy and can find ways to make their companies succeed without tons of money. Private investors will reward those with good ideas who prove that their ideas have potential.

  3. Melissa

    Great blog, and I think in the long run the recession could have upsides such as more people starting their own businesses or seeking alternate paths rather than trying for the old formula- which as you observed is simply not working anymore. I also suspect that the Millennial generation might be questioning the very definition of “success” (paying off student loans for 10 years, mortgaged to the eyeballs, two gas guzzling cars in the driveway, going to the big box retailers every weekend and paying for it all by toiling away at a big corporation where you’re no more than a cog.) I love the idea of more small, entrepreneurial and specialist businesses being the way of the future.

    Also, shame on Jamie for not reading the article, totally missing the point but still criticizing it!

  4. Jamie

    Thanks for your reply Lindsey, I should have read the whole thing- I did skim it- I just got turned off and frustrated by that initial statement- that hard work and education does not equal employment. And your statement really does boil down to that, one way or another. I understand it wasn’t the main point- and I think the entrepreneurship part is great. I just disagree that hard work (even minus the education) will not bring employment. I believe that anyone who really wants a job will get one.

  5. Ray Beckerman

    I’ve seen enough “trickledown economics” to get sick.

    It’s time for some “trickleup economics” — investing in the people who need help, who need to be trained with the skills needed to survive in this world.


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