In defence of millennials: Why the young and hungry are the best leaders for businesses

Note: I use the word “millennial” loosely throughout this article, but I don’t define a millennial to any age category. To me, a “millennial” is someone who has comfort with technology, and embraces the progression of our digital world.

“You don’t have enough experience.”

This is something almost every young professional has heard early on in their career.

It’s engrained in our culture to believe starting a business when you’re young is a mistake.

I’m grateful that I didn’t have to bear that weight.

Between my undergrad and Master’s degree, I was fortunate to have the chance to work in Southeast Asia. I remember when my bosses asked me what I wanted to do post graduation, and I remember the feeling of embarrassment when I said, “I want to work for myself.” I expected that they would say that I must pay my dues before I earned the opportunity to start a business.

At the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. Going barefoot in the rain was not my choice. Photo credit: A very kind Burmese man.

But to my surprise, they applauded me and encouraged me to embark on an entrepreneurial journey. One of my mentors, who worked over 30 years in investment banking, said his only regret in his career was that he didn’t make the jump into entrepreneurship earlier. This was someone who had, by all accounts, a successful career, where he built a network, gained experience, and earned respect that no doubt paved the way for his future entrepreneurial success.

“The world today moves too fast to wait around,” he said. “Take advantage of any opportunity you have now.”

Even with everything that his long career in corporate provided him, he advised me to push into becoming an entrepreneur from the earliest stages.

With that as fuel, I committed myself to make the jump into entrepreneurship, and now lead a business that is growing and ready to scale.

It certainly is not for everyone. But if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, and have ever thought that you could make a small difference in the world through entrepreneurship, I’d like to tell you why it makes sense to take the jump.

We are playing with a new set of rules

The typical career path of the Baby Boomer’s has long since weathered away.

In the past, we were happy to graduate university, and be placed in protected, secure, environments where our mistakes were shielded by corporate employers. Jobs were simply a means to an end for our lifestyles. The workforce readily accepted this, happy that their destiny wasn’t in a manufacturing plant or factory, and that they could earn a living to start a family sooner.

However, we have a new set of rules in today’s working world. Our educational system is failing at placing youth in jobs, making it more difficult for young people to find a footing early on. Robots have replaced factory workers, computers have replaced pens, and algorithms are replacing bankers. That is leaving the rest of us to pursue creative outlets to solve the world’s problems, and find a way to earn an income while doing it.

Millennials are seeking more meaning from their careers, and for many, that means starting their own businesses.

Even for those working for a large company, there is a push for more autonomy and freedom. Corporate environments are more relaxed than ever, and allowing employees many liberties so they can be empowered to do the best job possible.

We are realizing that the Internet has provided us a new era of work. It has allowed us to launch products overnight, solicit feedback from customers across the world, obtain funding from global partners, and build massive networks online. The Internet has allowed us to experiment, fail, and learn faster.

Starting a company when you’re young is hard. But with some grit, the pathway to success creating a business on the Internet is clearer than ever. Nobody knows where technology is truly going, but millennials have been tasked with finding the answer.

As millennials, we are building a unique set of digital skills that very few people entering the workforce have had before.

Growing up in the digital age

Social media in its current state is completely unharnessed. Unlike the cable TV generation, content creation is completely democratized, and a disproportionate amount of attention is being sunk into it: over two hours per day, on average. Currently, the economics around social media are far behind the amount of time we spend engaging on these platforms.

What gives millennials an advantage is that they will have a better grasp of social than any other generation: while millennials are the greatest consumer of content, they are also the greatest creator of content, having the greatest percentage of influencers in their demographic. But unlike their Gen Z counterparts, they also grew up without the Internet, meaning that traditional business settings are as comfortable for millennials as digital.

Many people say social media is self-indulgent, and there is certainly truth to that. Regardless, influencers are gaining the confidence to share their thoughts and feelings to thousands, sometimes millions of people with the tap of a finger. To generate the same impact just one generation ago, it took 20 years of experience and shaking the right hands to only to get a chance at a book publishing deal, and even then there was no way to experiment, iterate, and re-publish your ideas.

This new way of media is in its infancy, and it’s only going to grow. Millennials are managing brands, distribution, partnerships, and more, all before the age of 30, and their impact is only getting bigger. The market votes with its attention, and right now, everyone’s attention is on social. Like it or not, we thoroughly enjoy indulging in the thoughts of our friends and network, or in some cases, the people we wish were in our network.

One of the voices of the millennial generation. Casey Neistat embodies the ability to grow an audience online and manage huge brand partnerships as a result. (Photo: vidooly.com)

Our fascination with social media is not a generational problem. It is human nature to share our thoughts and feelings to those who will listen, and there will always be those with a louder voice. As consumers, instead of complaining about the state of media, we should be more mindful of the posts, blogs, and videos we consume. Then we can grateful that anybody with access to the Internet now has the ability to be heard.

Nobody knows where social media is going, but millennials will give it their best attempt to harness it.

The confidence to make it all work

Millennials don’t know what they don’t know. We weren’t around for the dot.com bubble. Many of us weren’t in the working world for the 2008 recession. For most millennials, the world has only grown since we entered the workforce.

While this means that millennials are naive to market crashes, it also gives us a growth mindset. Since the 2008 Great Recession, our economy has grown steadily, and has glamourized more entrepreneurial success stories than tragic failures. Young founders today are operating with pure optimism, working tirelessly to have their piece of the pie. When founders are confident in their business, they gain the intense focus needed to solve problems for their customers.

Like a 13-year old daredevil skier who has never broken her arm, young leaders are willing to dive head first into any situation without fear, giving them the passion to lead the charge for their team to rally around.

Conclusion

If you’re in your 20’s, and you have the means and desire to take a risk, now is the time. The way we are doing business is changing so rapidly that the most successful people are going to be the people who have had real-time action as entrepreneurs before. Being an entrepreneur will allow you to iterate, move quickly, and obtain the wide-range of skills necessary to adapt for any role in the future, whether it be for yourself or another company.

Of course, it goes without saying that there are great entrepreneurs above the age of 35 (in fact, there are certainly more). But my goal is to encourage any millennials wondering if this is the right path to trust their abilities and just start.

Looking back, I would congratulate my younger, even more naive self that believed he could take on the world. He had an idea, gave it a shot, and was willing to experiment.

Things are just beginning, and now the only thing left to do is to work.

You can find more about what I do at https://mero.co