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Alison Hillhouse

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Class of 2011: Too Talented to Sit in a Cubicle... But Not to Roll up Their Sleeves

Posted: 05/25/11 03:51 PM ET

It's not hard to imagine how most Boomers and Gen Xers might react to a 2011 college grad declaring "I'm too talented to punch a clock or sit in a cubicle" -- especially in today's economy. He could be written-off as entitled, naïve and foolish, particularly by elders who have invested years climbing the corporate ladder.

Given the lackluster job market, it's perhaps a surprising revelation that 71 percent of Millennials agree they are "too talented to punch a clock or sit in a cubicle," according to an MTV study of 2,000 youth ages 14-24. But before dismissing this generation as overly confident and entitled, it's only fair that Millennials get the opportunity to defend themselves.

Imagine a slightly different scenario, one in which the college grad clarifies the remark by saying, "I'm ready to work hard. But I don't want to surrender my life to a corporation that expects loyalty from me and offers none in return. I don't want to be dismissed by people who continue to hold the belief that experience is the primary prerequisite for good ideas. And, I don't want to feel like I am working in a vacuum without a clear-cut connection as to how I impact the bottom line. " Upon further qualitative analysis of the anti-cubicle sentiment, MTV has indeed found that this generation isn't suffering from inflated egos.

Class of 2011 just dreams of a more self-directed, personally fulfilling pathway to success: entrepreneurship. Contrast a prototypical entrepreneur of the 1980's -- perhaps a family friend who launched a mortgage business in a corporate office park -- with today's celeb-preneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jay-Z, who are just as likely to be seen on the red carpet as they are in Fortune magazine.

Today's rock star entrepreneurs are more relevant and revered than ever before, as they have created entities like Facebook, Google and YouTube that define Millennials' social lives and foster their entertainment experiences.

Practically speaking, entrepreneurship is also more accessible than ever, as Millennials have the tools to make their dreams come to life. Facebook and Twitter function as a sales force, a website serves as a storefront and wholesalers in Asia replace costly production facilities. Technology itself breeds a market for more technology, and Millennials who intimately understand the user experience for apps and games are generally best suited to create them.

In a sense, a Millennial entrepreneur is like an uber-Millennial. Millennial entrepreneurs exhibit an amped-up version of many of the traits intrinsic to their generation as a whole -- they are even more tech savvy, more empowered and more wound up for success. They have an intense desire to change the world by remixing and reshaping industries to give power to the people instead of to an elite few at the top. As Susan Gregg from online retailer Modcloth notes on her website, "We want to fundamentally change the fashion industry! For so long, creating fashion has been this top-down process." Modcloth gives fans a voice through its "Be The Buyer" feature, allowing them to vote on potential inventory to be sold on the site.

Contrast this with the vibe at traditional corporations, which are perceived to perpetuate a stifling, uncreative environment where inexperienced opinions are not always welcome. There's a burning desire amongst youth to be one's own boss, to not be a cog in a large machine. This perhaps stems from an upbringing where supportive "peer-ents" have always encouraged them to voice opinions and often gave them a vote in household decision-making. As Lady Gaga puts it, "My mama told me when I was young, we are all born superstars..."

There's a distinctly "pop-culture" flavor to many Millennial enterprises. Whether it's designing apps or planning events or supplying chic fashion from Asia, Millennials are creating businesses that personally excite them and feel relevant to their lives. MTV studied multiple Millennial entrepreneurs whose businesses evolved out of their own passion points. Danielle Schowolow, 24, founded "Status Stalker" because she believed people her age needed a place they could vent about social networking. Wade Slitkin, 25, leveraged his passion for comic books to create a comic-book reading app called "Panefly." And Edwin Choi, 22, founded app development shop "Gumdrop Labs" -- even the name oozes pop culture. MTV also surveyed its online panel of hundreds of Millennials to uncover their entrepreneurial dreams, and found their ideas also reflect unbridled creativity and a desire to re-engineer the world. Panelists want to start everything from a gluten-free bakery to a paranormal investigation agency to a visitor-friendly snake farm.

And who's stopping them? Their peer-ents offer emotional and sometimes financial support... in some aspect, moms and dads are America's new venture capitalists. The economy means no one is clamoring at Millennials' doors to lure them into joining corporate America. And quite simply, youth today claim to be an unstoppable force, with 69 percent agreeing "If I want to do something, no one is going to stop me." So download "Entrepreneurship for Dummies" on your iPad, buy a URL at GoDaddy.com and send a "grand opening" message to 760 of your closest Facebook friends ... and you're in business.