• Risk: A Terrible Thing to Waste

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    I’ve always thought that working in sales would be a terrific career-opener for Millennials. Just imagine 90+ million young people joining the work force—the largest generation of potential producers ever.

    If young people only understood how exciting and entrepreneurial it would be to work in sales, they’d fall over themselves to contact you via LinkedIn. After all, if they want to work on their own terms as producers—what better way? It’s the Wild West of jobs! Let’s just go out and tell them!

    I’m rebooting my thinking.

    A piece in The Wall Street Journal says the share of young adults who own private businesses has reached a 24-year low. “The findings run counter to the widely held stereotype of 20-somethings as entrepreneurial risk takers,” the article says. Some have trouble accessing capital. Some are intimidated by today’s pervasive online competition. Some don’t feel they have the skills and experience to pull it off.

    Further, the article points out, young people lack enough confidence. “More than 41% of 25-34 year old Americans who saw an opportunity to start a business said fear of failure would keep them from doing so, up from 24% in 2001.”

    When we emerged into the workforce in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Baby Boomers generally took a different approach. We put our noses down and got the job done—or attempted to—even if we didn’t exactly know what success looked like. Fear of failure meant we embraced risk rather than avoided it.

    Ahh, but those Millennials feel different. Thus, to help them find their entrepreneurial self, and build a nice book of business, smart leaders will:
    1.    Put a sharp focus on hiring young producers and service reps. This attitude must come from the very top of an organization.
    2.    Build a strong employment brand. Be specific about the opportunities—and let your local community know about them via social media platforms. Show Millennials a specific career path.
    3.    Have a vision for growing your firm, and where employees fit in with that vision.
    4.    Create internships and get to know young candidates via programs such as InVEST, investprogram.org.
    5.    Mentor young producers—don’t hang them out to dry. Get some advice on how to successfully compensate them as they’re starting out. Baby Boomers dealt with “sink or swim” mentality, but not these folks.
    6.    Continually nurture a strong workplace culture—Millennials crave a positive experience. Have some fun.
    7.    Show how your business gives back in the community—you are about more than just selling. Millennials admire that.

    To an established professional, entrepreneurship comes more naturally: “You get to build your own book of business—just like I did!”

    But young people under age 35 generally aren’t risk takers. Unfortunately, when it comes to careers, perhaps the worst risk of all is the one not taken.

    You know small business is a fantastic ride. What can you do to smooth the onboarding process?

    Peter van Aartrijk is president and CEO of Aartrijk, a branding firm located in Springfield, Virginia.
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