By Claire West, Fresh Business Thinking

26/06/2013

oDesk®, the world’s largest online workplace, and Millennial Branding, a Gen Y consulting firm, today announced results of a new study, “Millennials and the Future of Work.” The survey, conducted by independent research firm Genesis Research Associates, examines perspectives on the future of work from 3,193 freelancers worldwide, including 1,958 Millennials (19 – 30 years old). Findings reveal a desire to follow independent career paths due to the freedom and flexibility professionals say these paths provide, as well as a redefinition of what it means to be “an entrepreneur”.

Key results include:

• 72% of those still at “regular” jobs want to quit to be entirely independent; 61% say they likely will within two years

• Freedom is the top reason those at “regular” jobs would like to quit; 89% say they prefer to work when and where they choose (versus in a corporate, 9 – 5 job)

• 90% of independent workers indicated that being an entrepreneur reflects having a certain mindset (rather than being strictly defined as having started a company)

• Of the freelancing Millennials surveyed, 58% of those familiar with the term “entrepreneur” classify themselves as one

Professionals are crafting entrepreneurial, independent paths to freedom

Of the freelancing Millennials surveyed, 58% of those familiar with the term “entrepreneur” classified themselves as one. Among all generations, freedom to work how they want is critical — 89% said they’d prefer to work when and where they choose (versus in a corporate, 9 – 5 job). In fact, among those surveyed who were still at “regular” jobs, freedom was the top reason they wanted to quit. When comparing freelance work to “regular” jobs, freelancing was seen as providing more freedom to:

• Work wherever they like (92% agreed)

• Work whenever they like (87% agreed)

• Work on more interesting projects (69% agreed)

• Travel while working (half said they’d prefer this to having to take a holiday)

Karen Queller, a 24-year-old Millennial who is working online while traveling the world, is quick to urge others to follow a similar path: “I want my life to inspire other people to live how they want. People have a lot of fears that hold them back from doing what they really want and I think many people would love to travel and work at the same time.”

Take note, companies, it’s time to embrace independent pros — 72% of freelancers who are still at “regular” jobs want to quit soon

Among the freelancers who were still at “regular” jobs, 72% indicated that they would like to quit their job “and work only for myself at some point in the future.”

“We believe that the barriers of Industrial Age work simply don’t make sense for businesses that want to get more work done, or for workers who are demanding more freedom. No one today wants to be confined to a cubicle,” said Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk. “As independent professionals embrace this freedom, hours worked on oDesk have increased eightfold since 2009.” Freelancers’ intent to follow through on the desire to quit and work only for themselves is high; 61% say they are likely to quit their “regular” job within two years (44% “probably will” and 17% “definitely will”).

Being “an entrepreneur” has become a mindset that’s critical to career success

Today many of these independent professionals classify themselves as entrepreneurs (almost 60%). The survey found that being “an entrepreneur” is defined today as someone who has a certain mindset, according to 90% of the professionals surveyed (versus only 10% who chose “someone who starts a company”). When asked to define an entrepreneur, aspects of this mindset mentioned included being a “self-starter,” “risk-taker,” “visionary,” and someone who “spots opportunity.”

“This signals a major shift in our economy and how we manage our careers,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself. “Entrepreneurship is now accessible to everyone regardless of age or occupation. You don’t need to own a business to be an entrepreneur, but you do need the entrepreneurial mindset to be successful in business.”

Entrepreneurship is something to aspire to, especially for Millennials

While entrepreneurship can be challenging (47% of those familiar with the term “entrepreneur” felt “there are downsides” while 53% indicated it is “an entirely good thing”), Millennials are more likely to see it as “entirely good” (57%, compared to 47% of those from older generations). However, the benefits of being an entrepreneur outweigh the downsides (75% of all surveyed agreed). In fact, 38% would even recommend pursuing a “promising start-up opportunity” versus completing a “traditional undergraduate degree.”

Gen X is seen as leading the future, but 2/3rds of Millennials already think their generation is ready to take the driver’s seat

Respondents of all generations surveyed said Generation X (31 – 48 year olds) is most likely to be best-suited to run today’s businesses, and therefore to lead the future of work. However, two thirds of Millennials already say that their own generation is best-suited (versus only 31% of those from other generations who say that Millennials are best-suited). This more grandiose view of their own generation’s abilities is in keeping with well-known studies on current Millennial attitudes by Dr. Jean Twenge, who found that “narcissism is markedly higher among college students in the 2000s compared to those in the 1980s.”

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