For the past few years, the world has been changing rapidly. The Great Recession - the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression - has left college graduates with limited career opportunities. People are overqualified for underpaid jobs. Others are taking out more loans and going back to school, just to get a leg up on the competition. Even for those who find work, job security is good for a few years at best. Achieving any form of traditional career success is near-impossible.
At the same time, social media has opened opportunities like never before. YouTubers are international sensations straight from their dorm rooms and garages. Bloggers are signing book deals. And anyone with a laptop and a cell phone can now start a fast-growing company. Let’s not forget the JOBS Act, which is enabling entrepreneurs to access funding more easily.
For better and sometimes for worse, millennials have become the entrepreneurial generation. For our crowd, the rules of success have changed. And, whether we want to start our own companies or not, we have to start thinking like entrepreneurs to become successful. We have to redefine success on these new terms.
Between limited job prospects, the ability to make big impact with smaller teams, and the ease of starting a company today, entrepreneurship is on the rise for millennials. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, over 70% of millennials would prefer to quit their 9-5 and work for themselves. And 60% plan on doing just that within two years.
But even that small minority who is comfortable working the office job has adopted a more entrepreneurial mindset. Regardless of our job title, we want a sense of purpose. We want to feel like we’re actually doing something with our lives and making a difference. We want to feel like we’re living the lives of our own making. And now, more than ever, we’re bombarded with media about opportunities to thrive and the journeys of others who have.
The traditional metrics of success - money, power, and fame - are still around as drivers to this generation, no doubt. However, the currency of success is changing, and those traditional metrics are not the only forms of payment anymore. What about free time? What about travel? Or passion? Or philanthropy? Or meaningful contribution? Or autonomy? Or the ability to work from home?
In an age where the business model has been disrupted more times than we can count, there’s no longer a clear-cut ladder to success. You don’t come home to tell your significant other that you won out the promotion over the next gal. Buying a home is no longer a prerequisite to reputation -- some of the most accomplished individuals still live with roommates in college-esque fashion.
Maybe travel is most important to you, and it’s more important for you to take odd jobs throughout the world for the opportunity to sightsee. Or maybe writing is your passion, and you’re willing to take on freelance jobs to work on your skills and hone your craft. Or maybe money really does matter to you, and it’s better to build up your 401K now while you’re planning your future career down the road.
The point? There’s no judgment. You can define success as whatever is most important to you. But it’s just important that you do define your metrics. Even if they’re vague on details, knowing what you’re working toward is invaluable toward achieving the eventual “it.”
Plan out the short-term. Know what matters to you. Decide where you’re not willing to compromise, and where you can give a little slack. Be realistic, but aim high with your ambitions. Create the life that you’ve always wanted. And know that you are the only person who can define that for yourself.
When you define success on your own terms, you are the only person who can judge if you’re successful or not. You are the only person who is playing by your rules. That’s what separates today’s career from yesterday’s and our generation from the last.
So, how do you win at the game of life? Make the rules yourself.