Millennials Want to Be Entrepreneurs. That Doesn't Always Mean Starting Businesses

Photograph by Tim Robberts

Leave it to the millennial generation—the “ME ME ME Generation,” according to Time (subscription required)—to play fast and loose with the word “entrepreneur.” In a survey of about 3,200 freelancers, including more than 1,900 between the ages of 19 and 30, most had a fairly expansive take.

Among other softballs, the survey asked readers which of the following two statements was a better description of an entrepreneur: “a person who starts a company” or “a person with a mindset to see opportunities, take risks, and make things happen.” To be sure, the question seems designed to elicit a predetermined answer. But it’s worth noting that for 90 percent of respondents, achieving the American dream of owning a business isn’t what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

It’s not self-obsession that’s leading millennials to embrace their entrepreneurial spirits, says Dan Schawbel, founder of consulting firm Millennial Branding, which conducted the survey with oDesk, a platform that connects businesses with remote workers. “There’s the sense that you have to approach your career as an entrepreneur, regardless of profession or industry,” he says.

“You need to see opportunities where others don’t, and you need to sell yourself and your ideas. If you’re not a risk-taker, it’s very hard to succeed.”