I recall hearing a story years ago that one of the drivers of the technology revolution and dot-com boom was the hard economy of the 1980s — facing shaky job prospects, the best and brightest were more inclined to strike out on their own and innovate instead of serving corporate bosses.
I haven’t seen data proving the recession forced people to become entrepreneurs, then or now, but I can imagine some people deciding they might as well take a risky move if they can’t find a good job.
USA Today recently had an article headlined Employees bid goodbye to corporate America that included anecdotes of several people saying they felt inspired by layoffs and high unemployment to build their own future, rather than leave their future in someone else’s hands.
The article included this insight about how people see their careers:
Dr. Kevin Brennan, a New York City-based psychologist who concentrates on helping young professionals, said the pressures of choosing the right career and the right time to follow one’s passions are the centerpiece of his practice.
“This generation’s parents said we could do anything we want, just be ‘happy,'” says Brennan. “Thus, happiness is now our only benchmark, and it is often the hardest. The previous generation of workers may have also wanted to quit and pursue their passions, but there was an overwhelming expectation to stay put, so there was less anxiety about settling with the dead-end job. ‘Happiness’ was simply not their primary value, allowing them to settle and put off their passion-hunting until their responsibilities diminished, a.k.a. mid-life crisis.”
So maybe it’s not the recession that’s converting people to entrepreneurship, but this elusive pursuit of happiness?
Think about how many practical people you know in the greatest generation and the baby boomers, people who chose a job for the steady pay or benefits, compared to Gen X or Y or the millennials, who seem more inclined to talk about passion or satisfaction or happiness.
Though I haven’t seen data on that, either, and it’s yet another anecdotal observation.
Brennan encourages those who are confused about their careers to think not only outside the box, but outside themselves.
“When in doubt, help others out,” advises Brennan. “Ask 10 people who engage in activities that help the world if they love what they do, and nine will say ‘absolutely.’ If you are bright, capable and bewildered, then why not do something useful for others?”
Do you think more people are starting their own businesses because they feel corporate America can’t take care of them? Do you think people are choosing careers with happiness more in mind than finances? Have you done either of these things?