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What Makes A Startup Aspirational For Students?

If you want your brand to succeed, make it aspirational and not just inspirational. Inspiration tends to pique one’s interest temporarily to do or feel something. Aspiration on the other hand, helps one to sustain an endeavor in a meaningful and purposeful way.

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It is clear that the world as we have known it, is rapidly changing and the harbingers of the next industrial wave are likely to be the startups.

Millennials, as we like to call them, look for different things in their work-goals than those from the previous generations. For one, they think of work as inherent part of life. According to Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd “millenials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be balanced by it ... they want to work to afford them opportunities to make new friends, learn new skills and connect to a larger purpose. That sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction; according to our research, they are the most socially conscious generation since 1960’s”. 

We live in one of the most affluent times in the history of the world. The new generation coming into workforce today are not compelled by the need to cater to Maslow’s most basic of human needs – food, water and shelter/safety. Clearly, they aspire to higher order needs, particularly those of social needs and self-esteem needs through pursuit of self-efficacy and self-actualization. This sense of purpose prioritised by the millennials is broader and is not measured by the amount of money or security earned for themselves. The millennials prefer skin in the game and would like to see their wealth grow by their own efforts. Startups have a better compensation structure as they are willing to share their equity with the performers, making them an attractive choice for pursuing their careers.

As is being said today, if you want your brand to succeed, make it aspirational and not just inspirational. Inspiration tends to pique one’s interest temporarily to do or feel something. Aspiration on the other hand, helps one to sustain an endeavor in a meaningful and purposeful way. So, what makes Amazon, Google, Air BnB, Uber, Paytm or Flipkart the aspirational companies for the new generation when compared to legacy companies?

“Belong Anywhere” – Says AirBnB, making it more aspirational than the established hospitality chains and appealing to their social needs of belonging. 

“Transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone” – Says Uber making it aspirational as it touches everybody’s life on a daily basis using the latest technologies and serving a sense of meaningful purpose”. 

“Our team is dedicated to working for the common good and doing what is right, in addition to being deeply passionate about building great software and great company” – Says Palantir, a technology company that aims to augment human intelligence and not replace it, yet again serving a higher order need to serve.

“We works mission is to create a world where people want to make a life, not just a living.” – Says Weworks getting under the skin of what the new generation really seeks.

It is clear that the world as we have known it, is rapidly changing and the harbingers of the next industrial wave are likely to be the startups. Industry 4.0, following the information age will be driven by the new age entrepreneurial outfits characterized by their nimble response to the environmental needs and rapid pivots for building successful business models. Where one would spend hours collecting information about a few customers, technology today enables gathering of large amounts of data that can be meaningfully parsed to impact much larger number of people. This is an age where ingenious information usage as against information gathering and analysis will be key to success. New job profiles such as Chief Digital Analyst, Chief Consumer/Behavioral Analyst, Creative direction, Social Media Evangelist or Mobile Designers etc can impact much larger audiences than ever before.

The environmental context today, necessarily requires that students must be encouraged to focus on higher order learning in the form of abstract thinking, working in ambiguous conditions, creative thinking, problem solution orientation through design thinking etc. A natural consequence of the same would be hands-on training in start-up environments. Startups are the hotbed for students to train themselves for the ambiguous world and hence a career goal for most enterprising aspirants. Startups offer a young and fresh learning environment where failing is not penalized and learn fast, fail fast and grow fast is the mantra. The transparency of small work setup and the recognition for skills over credentials offer young inexperienced students to bloom into their potential. The ambiguity of the future world requires an open mind and solution orientation to be able to tackle any problems that might arise unexpectedly. Startups provide the environment to learn the skills for problem solution orientation and managing unexpected complexities. 

In running the entrepreneurship program at IFIM Business School, Bengaluru, we found that students who opt for careers in startups have a steep learning curve and emerge more employable. These students find the challenging and informal organization dynamics conducive for hands on training in the real-world context. The learning environment, the intelligent challenges posed by data, the flat structure of the organisation and the attractive compensatory benefits which are linked to performance share ownership are the reasons why startups have been attracting the best in class talent and will continue to be aspirational for the millennials.

The volatility in the business environment caused by rapid changes brought on by technological innovations and advances requires nimble and flexible approach to organization design and ability to turnaround as quickly as possible. Startup environments provide the base for preparing fresh students for the future. In order to cater to this need, educational institutions must start mentally preparing their wards for such training. It is important for institutions and the larger economic environment to recognize that startup career goals are to be aspired for and not the last option for acceptable work profiles. 

Flexible Bespoke curriculums modeled in lines of the liberal learning programs should enable students to design their own learning pathways to mould their careers in personally meaningful ways. This must be the way forward to train millennials for the future of work beyond tomorrow. As Malcolm X said - Education is the passport to future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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