It's the ultimate small talk question: "So, what do you do?"
For those with an office, a job title, and an official business card with a recognized logo, it's a simple question to answer.
But for the millions joining the ranks of the entrepreneurial revolution, it's a loaded question.
Because, if you say any of the following,
Although these days, creative employment, side hustles and self-started businesses are becoming more common, many people still request labels, job titles and salary/benefits packages to in order to mentally and socially define those around them.
Ostracizing questions and comments like those above speak to the entrenched societal norms about work. That is, that we all must conform to an expected, regimented, clear-cut path that leads to career stability, a 401(k) and all those other great things the younger generations were promised by their parents (like Social Security!).
However, the statistics show that millennials, and likely the generation behind them, are choosing to buck many social norms that are considered staples of early adulthood by older folks: buying a car, getting married, owning a home … and working a traditional job with a fixed salary and benefits. Often, they are forgoing standard employment for more creative or enriching work experiences.
But not always by choice.
After experiencing the 2008 recession with skyrocketing unemployment and student loan debt, many had to turn to creative solutions to make money. (Enter: the sharing economy).
As a result, many young adults don’t trust the types of companies that employed their parents. But, they still need money. And so a legion of entrepreneurs, freelancers and innovators has formed, challenging the professional status quo.
Millennials have also started setting different standards for their work life. They prioritize jobs with meaning, leadership and growth opportunities and work-life balance. When such requirements aren't met, the resulting dissatisfaction leads to frequent job-hopping. Some view this as a loss of company loyalty.
This perception coupled with stigmas surrounding technology use, criticisms of millennials from other generations are quick to rain down.
Lazy, entitled, socially incapable, unrealistic … you know the laundry list.
But millienials want to work. And work hard.
They just want to set their own terms when it comes to the important stuff.
And is it really so bad for people to want more from their place of employment, the entity where the majority spends most of their waking hours?
To want a work-life balance that includes adequate vacation time and child care solutions?
To require empowering leaders rather than micromanaging tyrants?
To make work schedules more amenable to when people actually work best? And not when society has called them business hours?
Older folks might call it anarchy, but to those flocking new pioneers of self-employment, it’s freedom.
Are there risks to this new system? Of course. Innovation always yields losses and gains.
When you lose dim-lit cubicle jungles, you gain innovative co-working spaces.
You ditch the water cooler and you get Slack.
You eliminate time-wasting hours of faked productivity and receive more motivated employees.
You discard the farce of company-controlled financial security and put people in the driver’s seat of their destinies.
People want to work in an environment where their motivation, creativity and passion can grow and flourish, and in return, their efforts are rewarded with meaningful results, financial incentives, future opportunities and freedom.
In the world of work, we have often looked to companies to provide this space.
Now, many are creating it themselves.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.