Gen E . The Force Is One
Generation Entrepreneur has four distinct age demographics—
20% Millennials . Age 21-33
36% Gen X . Age 34-49
33% Boomers . Age 50-67
11% Matures . Age 68+
Each group faces unique challenges and opportunities that impact their success as an independent and their overall satisfaction with the work path.
MILLENNIALS: the Joys and Woes of Independence
Millennials (ages 21-33) feel free as independents (55%) and like making a difference with their work (78%). A sense of self-esteem comes into play here: 45% indicate that previous employers did not recognize the value they offer (vs. 35% for other ages). Independent work is also a career launch for many Millennials. More than half (51%) said that going independent was their own choice completely. Millennials see the value of independence in terms of professional development: 22% of Millennials (vs. 10% others) said they worked this way to gain skills that would advance their careers.
Millennial independents are generally quite satisfied with independent work. Fifty-two percent responded they were highly satisfied and an additional 22% reported they were satisfied. Their satisfaction is also reflected in their career plans, with 45% indicating they plan on staying independent and additional 21% saying they plan to build a bigger business. Only 28% plan to seek a full-time (26%) or part-time (2%) job in the next 2-3 years.
Despite these overall positive numbers, circumstances beyond their control led many Millennials to independence. Nearly 1 out of 4 Millennials turned to independent work because they couldn’t find traditional employment, left jobs they were unhappy with (28%) or due to job loss (16%). Millennials are also more likely to turn to temporary/on-call work (15% versus 6% for non-Millennials) and fixed contract work (19% versus 8% for non-Millennials) – types of work where satisfaction ratings and a sense of personal control are low. These factors help explain why Millennials have a higher comparative dissatisfaction rate with independent work (15% versus 9% for non-Millennials).
GEN X: confident in Work but Worried about their future
Gen X (ages 34-49) sees the workplace paradigm shift towards independent work and they’re preparing for it. They’re agile with online tools and have built both the professional networks and relevant experience to make independence successful. Their industry experience gets them their gigs: 57% say their expertise is necessary for their work. One of two – 50% – say they can earn more money working on their own.
Nearly 1 in 4 Millennials turned to independent work when they could not find traditional employment.
1 out of 2 Gen Xers say they earn more money working on their own.
The control that independence allows is also important to this group. Growing up in a world where their corporate parents were either laid off or down-sized, they are both protective and guarded about controlling their professional and personal lives. Almost half (48% of Gen Xers versus 37% of non-Gen Xers) state that work/life flexibility is a key reason for choosing independence and 43% state independence allows them to better control their career (versus 37% for non-Gen Xers).
This year, 44% of Gen X (vs. 34% non-Gen Xers) reported that office politics was one of the reasons they chose self-employment. Interestingly, in 2012, this was a Boomer, not a Gen X, worry. As Gen Xers follow Boomers up the corporate ladder, they’re sensing more vulnerability in the traditional workplace. In fact, Gen X continues to indicate that independent work is less risky and more secure than traditional employment.
While Gen X sees a high level of satisfaction with independent work – 60% report being highly satisfied and 17% satisfied – they also worry more than other age groups about managing the burdens of life such as health care and retirement planning. On a life-cycle basis this makes sense: nearly 7 in 10 are either married (55%) or living with a partner (12%), and close to 4 in 10 have kids. Since they’ve entered the mid-life of their careers, these long-range planning requirements weigh more heavily on their shoulders than for other cohorts.
57% of Gen Xers say their expertise is necessary for their work and 50% say they can make more money working solo.
BABY BOOMERS: Evangelists for independent Work
Boomers (ages 50-67) see independence as insulating their world from the vagaries of corporate life — and the job uncertainties and dramas that go with it. They’re the new evangelists of the shift to independent work.
Boomer independents have been through the wringer. Over a quarter (27%) turned to independence due to loss of a job from a layoff, termination, or business closure (vs. 20% non-Boomers). Another 17% indicated that they left a job they were unhappy with. They’ve been transferred, downsized, regrouped and relabeled enough to get fed up and change their path. In search of work that is more meaningful and in their control, they’re exiting traditional jobs to hang their own shingles, branding themselves as “Boss of Myself” and “Chief Initiator of my Future.”
And start businesses they have – even more robustly than initially planned. When asked why they initially shifted to independence, 1 out of 3 Boomers report a conscious decision to start their own business. But when asked what type of independent they are today, almost 60% of Boomers answer “business owners,” with a full 40% saying they run their own solo business and another 19% saying they’ve built micro businesses with 1-3 employees.
Boomers are very satisfied with independent work, with 84% reporting being either highly satisfied (68%) or satisfied (16%) with independent work. Only 9% reported being dissatisfied. Not surprisingly, 79% report planning to stay independent (74%) or build a bigger business (5%). Only 8% plan to look for a traditional job.
MATURES: Loving Everything about independence
Of all age groups, Matures (Ages 68+) claim that independence was their choice completely (71% Matures vs. 53% for others). Face it: it’s tough getting a job in the traditional workplace when you’re 68+. Yet, as a consultant or advisor, there are endless clients looking to tap into the experience and expertise of this group of independents.
Matures are also the most satisfied independent workers, with 94% saying they are highly satisfied (84%) or satisfied (10%). Almost none (1%) plan to seek a traditional job, while 74% plan to continue as independents and 6% plan to build bigger businesses.
While over half of Matures (55%) said they were working in part to supplement their retirement income, 20% reported they reached a level of financial security that allows them to work on their own and only 15% reported they still needed to work. As our oldest age group, it’s no surprise 14% plan on retiring over the next 2-3 years.
3rd Annual Independent Workforce Report . Copyright 2013 MBO Partners, Inc.