Stepping Out of the Norm: Why Millennials Keep Making their Own Rules

Image: Dim Sum Media

 This post originally appeared on Medium.com.

At the ripe age of 32, I now affectionally like to refer to myself as an “elderly Millennial.” I have entered into a time in life when I am officially grown and must accept all the things that come along with properly “adulting.” I graduated from college pre-Great Recession, which puts me into a unique group of Millennials that are more likely to be on a traditional career track compared to our younger comrades. The recession is truly the “great definer” of this generation. If you are part of the “elderly Millennial” cohort, you likely graduated college before 2007ish, received a job in your intended field and moved through the ranks, as many of the generation did before us. As opposed to, the core group of Millennials who were delayed in finding jobs and who may have never been able to start their career in their choice field. But, the truth is, we were all rocked by the recession.

The recession was a game-changer for everyone in the country. But, it was also the start of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style professionalism for a lot of folks. Simply put, the world has changed and people have decided to make their own rules. Specifically, Millennial are working to achieve their success on their own terms. Even those working in a traditional work environment are moving around until they find what they truly want. The digital nomad lifestyle, those who have built their careers on being able to work remotely from anywhere, are also making the system work for them. In a study commissioned by EY, they found, “62 percent of millennials have considered starting their own businesses, and 72 percent think startups are “essential for new innovation and jobs.”

Image: EY 

Image: EY 

An overwhelming number of Millennials see themselves starting their own business and believe they have an entrepreneurial mindset. As stated in The Atlantic, “Most successful founders begin their careers as devoted employees. Their start-up ideas germinate in office daydreams before blossoming into something worth pursuing outside the comforts of the company.” They might be working a normal job right now, but the ultimate goal is to do for themselves. And luckily for Millennials, they have plenty of time to do it. Millennials are confident, many overly confident as society is constantly reminding us, but who cares? You are supposed to take risks in life. You are supposed to bet on yourself. This is a confidence we should all work towards.

This “step out in faith and hope that the universe will catch you,” mentality is exactly what I am doing. After more than ten years of a traditional, corporate PR career, I am starting my own company. What a close friend of mine calls, the Savvy Soloist. I have built my career during one of the most challenging times in our country’s economy. I started in the financial services sector right after college. In 2007, when the housing crisis began to surface, my career focus quickly pivoted into the housing/mortgage sector. And ever since, I have been on the front lines of crisis communications in the ultimate crisis city, Washington, D.C. I moved my career to Fannie Mae during the housing crisis (something most people in my life still don’t quite understand). I cut my teeth by being thrown into the deep end, time and time again. Who wants to do PR when it is boring and your phone is never ringing? I gained significant experience as a strategist and spokesperson, traveling the country (almost nonstop) and hustling day and night to help save thousands of families from foreclosure. Crisis and hustle are what I am, weirdly, attracted to.

The first media call I received during my last role as a corporate PR director was from TMZ, the celebrity gossip outlet, during my very first week on the job. Now, Washington D.C. issues are NOT a priority for TMZ. This was one of the most unexpected calls I have ever received. There was an accusation of racism in our advertising, which was (unfortunately) widely covered by the media. It was handled and fizzled out shortly after it began, but it will stay burned into my memory. Ironically enough, I took that role as an attempt to step out of crisis communications, but my first week on the job, the crisis bug found me again.

I, unlike many, enjoy the corporate environment. Navigating the corporate world is something that I have been naturally good at and something that I thought I would be in forever. I didn’t really think about owning my own business. I have climbed the ladder swiftly and efficiently over the last ten years. And I definitely enjoy biweekly paychecks. I have always been a rule follower and corporate America has a blueprint. I like maps and defined next steps. But, who says you can’t still be a part of that world, just under your own name?

I want the freedom to work on the projects that I am passionate about. I want to lend my high-value skills to organizations that could probably never afford me as a full-time employee but have the budget for short-term consulting. And thanks to my Millennial confidence, I am ready to jump in there. IntersectionPR.com is up and running. My calendar is filling up. The phone is ringing. And once again, I am already dripping wet by being thrown into the deep end, which is apparently my professional comfort zone.

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Keosha Burns is the Principal at IntersectionPR, a public relations and social strategy consultancy in Washington, D.C., focusing on dynamic and authentic storytelling, helping industries reach the Millennial audience.

Interested in learning more about how to start your own gig? Check out the Savvy Soloist course.