The formula for success used to be simple: go to school, get good grades, earn a degree or two, hire into a well respected company with benefits, and work for forty-five years to earn a retirement on a pension.
If that formula were ever true, it's now a thing of the past. More and more people are realizing that their economic wellbeing is in their hands alone. Entrepreneurship and private business ownership are emerging as more viable alternatives for a generation that has seen its parents' dreams ground to dust by the (mostly) corporate myth.
Enter networking—an unconventional entrepreneurial approach to wealth, self-determinism, freedom and security. These lifestyle features of the profession are well known, but some of the subtler features of networking are attracting more and more members of Generation Y.
These individuals have grown up in a digital, global, rapidly changing world. They reject empty platitudes and preachments and instead search for creative alternatives. They are as interested in pleasing pathways as they are in rewarding destinations. Unwilling to sacrifice their entire adult lives on the corporate altars of seniority and advancement, they are flocking to networking in ever-expanding waves in the realization that they can receive many benefits immediately.
Education and Economics
Based on my experience in working with Generation Y, a big part of network marketing's allure is education. In a world where the cost of a formal college experience can make even the wealthy blanch, gaining an official educational pedigree is increasingly beyond the reach of the average student. Further, student loans and their long-term burden (including the fact that default against most of them is prohibited) have caused those with a long-term view to consider a different path.
Perhaps more than any previous generation in a century, Gen Y considers education to be more about learning and growing and less about official pedigree. For this reason, Gen Y sees the rich educational experience available in most network marketing training systems as a very attractive way to gain both principle-based and methods-based real-world business knowledge. In many cases, these training systems provide teaching in people skills and real-world economics that is sorely missing in formal education.
Even more pressing, most likely, is personal economics. Even with a college degree or two, young adults are finding they just can't keep up. Says a recent graduate from Boston University working as a publicist, "I think I'm making decent money, but it's just not enough with all the bills I pay. It's not like I'm out shopping and doing crazy things. I'm just trying to get by."
Demos, a public policy group in New York, reports, "These young adults are doing everything society tells them to do. They're going to college, taking on tremendous student-loan debt, and working longer hours than ever before while in college. When they get in the real world, they can't get ahead because of the debt they went into to get the degree to get the good job." And so they become stuck in a rut and entrapped by their early but heavy debt.
A career in networking, by contrast, doesn't require a costly formal education and the possible associated debt load, and even for those who find themselves so burdened, networking offers a viable and relatively quick way to dig out from under.
Flexibility, Fairness and Fun
As if personal economics weren't harsh enough, the macro economy with all its widely publicized ills has ushered in an era of high unemployment and inflation. What this means for the young and inexperienced is less opportunity. For many, even those with degrees, jobs in their field of training simply don't exist. Many is the disappointed person with the hope of beginning a career in a certain area who is then forced to find something else, and usually something lesser, in a completely different field of endeavor. For these individuals who are already forced to find an alternative, networking offers fluid, flexible, challenging and wide-ranging possibilities.
Perhaps the biggest draw to networking for the next generation is the flattened playing field. In much of the conventional business world, young and talented people are often forced to work their way up the food chain, or earn their stripes, and put in their time. Someone else is in charge of their advancement, and the decisions regarding this advancement are often based upon seniority and documented experience. Not so with networking, where there is a pay plan and an organization to be built, and such results are entirely in the hands of the individual business owner—regardless of his or her age or seniority. Growing up with a "world is flat" mentality, nothing could make more sense to this new generation of powerful leaders-to-be.
One of my Gen Y team members told me, "Don't forget to mention the fun. Let's face it, we're still young. We don't want to wear the stodgy corporate suits the world expects us to grow into. We prefer to live the good life, and sooner rather than later. I've seen my parents scrap for money my whole life. It can't hurt for me to try a different path—especially one that allows me to continue having fun with my friends like I did in school. Put that in your article!"
Forget the traditional mindset that considers youth to be inexperienced and incapable. Instead, watch as thousands of Gen Y's take advantage of the opportunities network marketing offers, and how they turn the world upside down.
Better yet, seek some of them out yourself and help them do it! After all, one more advantageous feature of networking is mentoring. Give the next generation a hand up and you'll both win.
CHRIS BRADY is author of Rascal and coauthor of the
New York Times, BusinessWeek, USA Today and
Money best-seller, Launching a Leadership Revolution.
Together with Orrin Woodward, he leads a network marketing
organization of tens of thousands of people. Their common
goal is to raise the level of professionalism and leadership
in network marketing.