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Money Talks, Experience Echoes for Millennials

Among the things millennials have already witnessed is the rise and fall of big-name startups. But small businesses can often give young professionals valuable experience.

When I started my fi rst company in 2008, friends looked at me like I was suddenly unemployed. By 2011, startups offered the hottest jobs on the market thanks to rock star propaganda from The Social Network and Cinderella stories out of Silicon Valley. The message was clear that you, too, can start a company in your dorm room or dad’s garage, and sell it for hundreds of millions, check that, billions of dollars.

In 2018, we’re seeing a shift back to the corporate life. Large companies have brought back even larger salaries for STEM college grads. Combine big paychecks with even bigger bonuses, and it’s harder now than ever to hire a tech team at a small business. We just can't compete on salary.

At Tome, we’ve learned that most applicants want to be part of a small company and are interested in starting (or helping to start) their own business someday. While many might not be the “entrepreneur” per se, they may want to work at a fledgling, up-and-coming “newco” startup.

Two Keys to Success 

The first is experience in a small business setting. What I find most interesting is that many millennials are looking to make enough money to quit their job in three to five years and join a startup. I hear so many stories about young professionals who want to “get the corporate experience” in the bank first before they make that jump.

The irony is that by the time you’ve spent that much time in a large corporate setting, you may have missed the chance to acquire the skills you need for success in a small business. In fact, the critical skills you did learn in college may have been lost. What’s more, spending those five years in a corporate environment will make it that much harder to walk away from a large corporate salary toward risk and financial uncertainty.

The second thing you’ll need is a personal budget that works. The beauty of working for a small business is that savvy millennials can sock away some savings and be budget conscious enough to eventually make the leap over to a new company. There’s a trend in millennial spending patterns favoring experiences over material possessions. The ultimate experience is setting your own hours and savoring a taste of the entrepreneur's American dream. But it takes frugal spending and a big bank of savings to support a newco project commitment of 12-18 months.

I’m proud to have helped several employees learn the ropes so they could have their own newco or join another one. Money talks, whether it’s earning or spending. But small businesses will never win on dollars alone. We have to fight cash with a different kind of compensation, and a promise to help young professionals get to where they want to be in five years, including and beyond the financials.

Jake Sigal