The clichéd college graduate who – immediately upon graduating – lands a gig as a barista or lands no gigs has always been oversimplified and rash. Increasingly, it is a cliché that is being proven wrong.
According to a recent report by Intelligent.com, young entrepreneurship is on the rise and is expected to continue rising amongst current college students upon graduation.
After college, an increasing number of graduates are quickly becoming or considering the prospect of becoming business owners. As of 2022, according to an Intelligent.com report, 17% of college graduates run a business, and 43% intend to follow in their footsteps.
17% sounds like a low number – one made even worse considering that most business owners do not have any college degree. Yet, it was only a few years ago that college students exhibited an overwhelming lack of interest in entrepreneurship.
Only 4.7% of recent college graduates in 2018 were self-employed or freelancing business owners. Hence, the number of current college graduate business owners has nearly quadrupled over the past four years.
Since the pandemic began, recent college graduates’ interest in entrepreneurship has notably increased. For example, 60% of recent graduates polled in 2021 expressed being interested in starting a business.
Most college students begin their business operations in college, and most of them also say that if they succeed enough to make a living before they graduate, they will most likely drop out. However, 28% say they will begin business operations upon graduating.
The primary reason recent college graduates and soon-to-be college graduates cite their interest in entrepreneurship is the pursuit of purpose. In Intelligent.com’s report, 45% note that doing work they are passionate about is the main reason for pursuing entrepreneurship.
This is in keeping with overall trends amongst the working population following COVID-19 lockdown measures. During this time, workers reflected on what they valued and found that meaningful work and flexibility were of prime importance to them.
Other reasons college students and graduates are ditching the conventional 9-5 path for a path of entrepreneurship include higher earning potential, wanting to be one’s own boss, and making the world a better place.
The concerns driving this increased spike in young entrepreneurship are pragmatic and personal. Many current college students and recent graduates have seen the negative impact of the 2008 recession had on millennials – most notably, millennial college graduates.
In a similar crisis with COVID and inflation, Gen-Z’s young college-educated adults are looking to avoid some of the similar damages millennials incurred, such as overwhelming student debt and lower financial savings.
Moreover, they seek to avoid the pitfalls of conventional work, such as office culture, inflexibility, and a lack of meaningful work. As a result, millennials graduated into one of the worst job markets in modern history precisely because most jobs available entailed these qualities.
In some sense, what this new generation of young entrepreneurs is seeking is stability in a world of increasing complexity and instability.
The top three industries that college-aged entrepreneurs are breaking into and are interested in breaking into include community & social services, business & finance, and design & visual arts.
This is somewhat surprising, as Gen-Z grew up exclusively using the internet and computers, so one would expect to see more IT, social media, and web development interests amongst entrepreneurs. Yet, these are some of the lowest fields of interest amongst young entrepreneurs.
What is generally reflected here is an interest in the well-being of others, maximizing revenue, and utilizing creativity for business purposes. As the Intellegent.com report states, it is a mix of optimism and cavalierly on the part of college-aged individuals interested in starting a business.
To cultivate an economy with creative goods and services worth purchasing in the face of ever-increasing complexity, this increase in entrepreneurship is excellent for the future of Gen-Z.
Investing in education – particularly public education – is crucial for the acceleration and improvement in the quality of this process. In addition, this will improve the economy and aid hard-working students in pursuing purpose and self-improvement.
Instead of discouraging entrepreneurship, educators and administrators have the duty of giving them the correct information to achieve their entrepreneurial aspirations – with or without it, more young people will seek business goals. Hence, a helping hand from educators is worth the trouble.
Daniel has been freelance writing for over 3 years now. He cover topics ranging from politics, philosophy, culture, and current events, to health, fitness, medicine, relationships, and mental health. He is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City, where I specialize in moral psychology, cognitive science, and the philosophy of mind.
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