Turning meaningful into a business

Posted on 30. April 2014

by Kati Temonen

kati-temonen-modified“I am studying the wrong subject”, “I don’t have any idea about how to run a business”, “It’s really not my cup of tea”, “I only want a secure job, even if it doesn’t match my education” – These are just some possible answers when young people are asked whether they would like to start their own company.

However, the reality is that jobs are scarce and young graduates have to come up with alternative ways of employing themselves. This trend seems to concern all parts of Europe. Some new graduates decide to move to better job markets – some end up doing jobs that simply pay them money and only vaguely match their industry. Decisions about work and career have become very short-sighted, driven by immediate needs (money) or by conventionality or expectations of the prevailing culture. Questions like “what will you do in five years” are often answered with a hesitant shoulder shrug.

There are indeed more challenges in some fields in bridging the gap between employment and education; nevertheless, what you study should not be a determining factor for what you can do when you graduate. All fields have extremely clever and ambitious young people wanting to change the world and put their knowledge into practice and hence, turn their education into something meaningful. Entrepreneurship would not just allow these people to gain employment but also to work with something that truly matters.

I can only draw examples from my own country, Finland, which has in many respects been in the forefront of promoting entrepreneurship. I am not only talking about the success stories of Rovio and Supercell, but the creation of a wide support network for encouraging young people – increasingly also from the “unentrepreneurial” fields – to get together, share ideas and put them into practice and ultimately influence others. Universities and other institutions of higher education should step up to promote a friendly, easily approachable environment where such ideas can flourish.

Success stories are crucial in changing the old cultures and giving a message that not all enterprises are born with large amounts of capital, extensive business knowledge and immense risk-taking. How far could a positive, ambitious attitude and peer support bring you? Evidence shows that young folklorists, linguists and political scientists have already become successful entrepreneurs. These are traditionally fields with low employment opportunities.

These success stories do not only show one solution to youth unemployment but also create a culture – a new attitude – that ambition and skills can be turned into a business in most creative and meaningful ways.

This blog post is a follow-up to The Ronda Forum on Education and Entrepreneurship on March 1, 2014.