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Don't Just Search for a Job: Create Your Own

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It's no secret that Americans are frustrated with the lack of job opportunities available.

As the unemployment rate held strong in September at 9.1% and 26 million Americans (16.5% of the workforce) were still unable to find full-time jobs, it is becoming increasingly clear that the economy is in "a jobless stagnation." In reality, the bulk of those 26 million people aren't going to find regular full-time jobs for many years.

There are constant news stories profiling young professionals who have college degrees in hand but nowhere to put those years of education into practice. Of the graduates from last June's college classes who were fortunate to find work, fewer than half of them found jobs requiring a college degree.

The new generation of 20-somethings is taking matters into its own hands. Facing this situation, more and more people are creating their own jobs as independent contractors and entrepreneurs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that unemployed job creators will account for 40% of all jobs by 2030.

Members of the millennial generation know how to build their careers -- and their lives -- by designing their own work, often electronically, from their homes. Inc. magazine released its annual survey of top entrepreneurs under the age of 30 for 2011. These young business men and women exemplify the young professionals who are choosing to take their careers into their own hands, instead of waiting around in a bleak job environment.

Take, for example, Drew Houston, who founded his company Dropbox in 2007. Dropbox is a cloud-based file-syncing service that allows users to access their digital files from nearly any computer or mobile device. Houston started writing code for the program when he mistakenly left his USB drive at home and could not access the files he needed.

Jessica Mah is a serial entrepreneur who founded three start-ups by the age of 19. Mah had been using Mint for a few years and became frustrated the site did not provide an applicable function for her small businesses. As a result, inDinero was contrived. inDinero is a business helping other small businesses grow and track their progress through the accounting services that can oftentimes be wildly inconvenient. Mah and her co-founder Andy Su built the prototype for inDinero and launched the company in 2009.

While still a college student at the University of Seattle, Brayden Olson founded Novel, Inc., a creative game company focusing on simulations for corporations to develop and assess people. Olsen lived at home with his parents to save money and accelerated his education to graduate in three years. At age 20, he decided to focus his full attention on building Novel. He was fortunate to attract $500,000 in venture capital funds to enable him to attract a quality team around him that could develop the complex software required for Novel's games. His first products will enter test markets early next year.

Young entrepreneurs also have time to experiment with ideas and keep learning. Zach Clayton started a subscription-based media company while still in college at the University of North Carolina. That business idea didn't take off, but it inspired him to start another one, which did. After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2009, Zach started business #3: Three Ships Media. The company helps its clients acquire new customers through digital media and social media channels. Without raising venture capital, he's profitably grown Three Ships into a multi-million dollar business. (Note: I have used Zach's services for Website creation and social media research).

Other former job seekers are creating work as creative strategy consultants, dog walkers for dual career families, home office managers, and personal IT consultants.

This economy requires a new class of technology-enabled businesses. The United States needs innovation, human capital investments, and research and development to build those businesses. Most importantly, it needs the entrepreneurs to get them started. The new generation has the potential to create entirely new services that will rebuild a vital economy, but one that looks entirely different from the last 10 years.

My advice to job seekers is to stop shooting resumes and emails off to everyone you know in hopes of landing a regular job. The odds are that it wouldn't use your full abilities, nor stoke your passions. Instead, think hard about what you love to and what you are really good at. Then seize the initiative and create your own job.

The advice of Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college and founded Apple at age 21, should resonate with you: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."