Why Millennials Are a Perfect Fit for Startups

An edited version of this blog was posted to Entrepreneur here.

IMHO. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about Millennials. Last summer, I chipped in when I wrote a post claiming that recent college graduates are pretty clueless. And while that might be true, I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses in the last year and have learned something else: they worry too much.

Truthfully, they have a lot to worry about. Today’s young person carries all the baggage of previous generations: a desire to please their parents, societal expectations and the pressure to get a job. However, there’s more (a lot more). The average college graduate carries nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. That’s 10 percent higher than just one year ago. And it is increasingly harder to get the job that will help you pay off those loans. Your parents competed with the kid sitting at the next desk for a job. Millennials are competing with the 300 million Chinese who are learning to speak English right now. They are up against billions of PHDs – Poor, Hungry and Driven — from across the globe that have never heard the word “weekend.” Add to the mix that today’s young people have an intrinsic drive to contribute, not just work, and it’s no surprise that Millennials on average report higher stress levels than any other demographic group.

CTFO. While Millennials have a lot more to worry about than your parents did at their age, there are advantages to entering the professional world of the twenty-first century. My father worked for 35 years for two companies. For his generation, the road to success was linear and well defined. Within a static framework, the winners were those that understood and stayed within the rules. One mistake, one wrong move, and your progress stalled. Playing it safe and working within the system was how you received your reward over time. Today, the rules of the game change constantly. Technologies, industries and competition change in the blink of an eye. Who heard of Uber or Bitcoin just a couple of years ago? These are just a few examples of new technologies that are disrupting markets, entire economies even. The linear career path of generations passed looks more like a corkscrew today. As a result, Millennials can take career risks that our parents would never had considered, iterating and redirecting multiple times along the way. That’s why all young people should seriously consider working for a startup.

Startups Want What You’ve Got. Growing up in this constantly changing world has produced in a generation of rapid leaners. Access to vast amounts of information (anytime, anywhere) can turn a novice into a relative expert in a matter of weeks, not years. Online resources like Khan Academy and code boot camps like Launch Academy are turning English teachers into ruby or mobile app developers. Your ability to adapt is your greatest asset. It is also the single, most necessary characteristic for succeeding in a startup.

TL; DR. This blog is probably being read on a 4-inch screen, so I’ll keep this one brief. Your short attention span is ready-made for the pace of change at startups. Your job today, if you’re good, will be dramatically different in a few months.

Independence, Innovation and Impact. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey, young people expect more from their work than any previous generation. While larger, established employers have struggled to provide the three “I’s”, startups require their employees to work independently, create innovative solutions and produce immediate impact.

#YOLO. Yes, you have college loans to repay. However, you likely don’t have a mortgage, kids or a 401K to worry about (yet). You can take a chance. What’s more, the experiences you’ll gain at a startup will help you succeed even if you later decide to join a more corporate environment.

Truth be told, large corporations value these characteristics as much as startups. They’ve finally learned that they must adapt or face certain failure (even Millennials are old enough to remember Blockbuster, newspapers or Motorola). I’m on my ninth job in 16 years and have made at least one distinct career pivot. I’ve made tons of mistakes and learned from everyone. Twenty years ago, I would be have been labeled a flake, a job-hopper. However, through that journey, I’ve learned and adapted my way to a rewarding career that I love. There are many paths to happiness, but all of them start with that first step. Whatever path you choose, spend less time worrying and get out there and break things.