Sales director of World OptionsView Author Profile
Generation X are increasingly motivated to strike out on their own.
We see a lot of talk in the press about Millennials and their preferences in life, particularly on the way their working day differs from the traditional nine to five. We also often hear about the ageing population and the challenges facing our Baby Boomers as they enter retirement and beyond.
But what about those stuck in the middle? Generation X refers to those aged 35-55, sandwiched between the oldest and the youngest members of the workforce, often quietly plodding along in their roles, slowly progressing in their chosen career paths.
Employers might assume that they are happily getting on with the job in hand, but a recent survey we conducted revealed that less than half of this age group (48%) consider themselves ‘satisfied’ at work. This is particularly interesting when 62% of the Gen X people we surveyed said that being happy at work is one of their top priorities in their career.
One theory for this dissatisfaction is that many Gen Xers feel it is too late for them to make a change or they do not want to rock the boat. They value work-life balance, more than any other demographic we surveyed, so it is somewhat surprising that they are happy to remain in a less-than-perfect role.
When we delved into this subject further, we found a strong correlation between the desires of Gen X when it comes to their careers and the benefits that self employment offers. In response to being asked about the most satisfying element of their current role, 22% of Gen X respondents said ‘the work I produced’.
When asked about the most frustrating element of their current job, 18% of Gen X respondents said they found the lack of opportunity for advancement and promotion difficult. Both of these elements are key parts of being self employed and could provide the right incentive to taking the leap and going it alone, but a lack of confidence is often the reason why this forgotten generation remain in their existing careers.
The most important point to note is that it is never too late to move into a new area and forge a different career. In fact, more mature employees are arguably best suited to making this move as they have the experience, knowledge and connections to support the decision.
So, once the decision has been made to go it alone, what are the options? Many assume that self employment purely means setting up your own business from scratch. While this is most certainly an option, there are many alternatives to suit the different personality types and skills of each individual.
For example, setting up a business is ideal for those who have spotted a gap in the market and have the ability to fill it. A lot of patience, confidence and effort is then required in making the vision a reality, typically with very little support from elsewhere.
Those who are deterred by such isolation might be better suited to becoming a franchisee, where there is a ready-made support network and a tested process to launching the business. This is often preferred by Gen X workers, who crave the independence that running their own franchise offers, but who also appreciate the support of other franchisees and the wider management team.
With so many franchise options out there, it is crucial to carry out a lot of research, and also speak to existing franchisees in organisations that you are considering so that you get a first-hand account of what your new career could look like.
Another option worth considering is consultancy, which is especially suited to those with a strong level of experience in their particular niche. Gen X employees who have been in their field of work for over a decade can call upon the skills they have learned and the contacts they’ve made to provide expert advice.
This can be very lucrative and means consultants only have themselves to manage, but the downside is there is not usually a team behind them to pick up any surplus work, and it requires ongoing motivation.
Finally, retraining is another solution for Gen X workers who are keen for a change. It is never too late to learn new skills, especially not when the type of careers available today may have changed greatly since entering the workforce. The drawback is the time it can take to retrain, but with the benefit that you can make a hobby or passion a vocation for life.
Once a decision has been made to go it alone, the first step to setting up a business is to source expert advice and carry out as much research as possible to start on the right track. This should begin with the product or service you are looking at selling and a deep investigation of whether there is real demand for this.
Market research and floating the business idea past friends, family and colleagues will help to determine whether your idea has mass appeal. Competitor research should form part of this, as you may think you have a unique product only to find that somebody else is already selling it.
Other research to follow includes exploring logistics and finance, before putting together a business plan and completing all the necessary legal work. Once the above is complete you can begin to launch a new career which provides a brand new beginning. Seizing this opportunity will bring dividends, not just for Gen Xers but for Millennials, Baby Boomers and everybody in between.
Stewart Butler is sales director of World Options.
Gen X: Forging New Beginnings With Self Employment