aNewDomain — The Great Recession changed the working lives of every American, and for those over 50 it has created one clear message: “Create your own employment.” As difficult as it is for millennials to get jobs, the senior working population in the U.S. is witnessing a greatly disrupted labor structure and increased longevity, both of which require new plans for a working life.
In the U.S. 5.6 million people aged over 50 are self-employed, or, put in a different context, 3 out of 10 independent workers are baby boomers. I’m one of those statistics. I initiated and co-founded Link TV at age 54, and it is now broadcasting into 50 million homes. In my media career, this initiative was my best attempt, and it turned out to be the most successful. How much of this is due to the age I was when I created it? Watch the animation at the bottom of this article to see the answer…
A paper called “Senior Entrepreneurship,” released by OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development, describes reasons for the self-employed nature of seniors in the U.S. It says, “Older individuals are both ‘pulled’ and ‘pushed’ to self-employment.”
“Pull,” in this context, shows that the older generation is made up of mature individuals who have a lifetime of experience, business skills and often the financial backing for legitimate entrepreneur roles. In short, they have a “can do” attitude, and thus are pulled toward working for themselves. They have earned their stripes, but not without failures along the way. Sometimes you need to be sorry, not safe, in order to learn how things work.
The report says:
The ‘push’ argumentation, on the other hand, is based on the proposition that older employees are being ‘pushed’ from the traditional labor market by factors such as age discriminatory practices in recruitment, promotion and training as well as a lack of attractive employment options.”
Those in the senior bracket know that entrepreneurship and innovation are tied together. You have to create new value and be creative in order to succeed. This age group flies under the radar and entirely skirts the millennial hype, so few notice their advantage — they are actually the most apt for succeeding in this way. Here’s how:
Compared to their younger counterparts, older entrepreneurs can possess advantages such as:
- More developed networks
- More work and industry experience
- A higher technical and managerial skill level
- A stronger financial position
But we must keep in mind that they are still up against difficulties. The report highlights one key aspect:
- Many respondents felt that society still has the perception that older people should not be involved in new types of economic activity or employment
- Perceived age discrimination occurred not only as an abstract barrier, but also a series of discrete external practices that can hinder business activities
- Clients having questioned their ability to provide adequate services and products, based on their age. This often impeded the ability of older entrepreneurs to develop a market and to seize new opportunities, jeopardizing the sustainability of their business
Overall, job creation in the U.S. is not coming from large companies, but small independently owned businesses. We should re-examine our mindset on the role of small firms, many of which are created by senior-aged entrepreneurs. Likewise, many of these seniors are struck with the need to give back to their communities, so their businesses often reflect socially conscious values, which enable a better society.
Bottom line is you need courage, as this nice animation from Baruch College shows.