Burn Your Resume, And Create A Job

Landing a job in a faltering economy can be a job in and of itself. And for the young and inexperienced job seeker, finding decent work can be near impossible. The answer, according to Scott Gerber, author of the book "Never Get a Real Job", is to stop looking for a job...and create one. Host Michel Martin speaks with Gerber and Tina Wells, a young entrepreneur who launched her own marketing agency, about strategies for earning a living.

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

From handling the pressure of school to handling the pressures of finding work in a down economy. The unemployment rate in this country may have fallen a tiny bit in December, but huge numbers of people still face tough economic realities. The job market has proven particularly grim for those with limited job experience - namely, the young.

Author and self-described serial entrepreneur Scott Gerber has some advice for those young people. Stop looking for that quote, real job, and create your own. Gerber is the author of "Never Get a Real Job," and he joins us now from our bureau in New York. Also joining us is Tina Wells. She's an accomplished entrepreneur herself, who's the founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, a youth marketing agency. And she joins us on the line from Philadelphia. Welcome to you both. Thank you so much for joining us.

MARTIN: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Thank you.

MARTIN: So Scott, I think it's fair to say that you started this book long before the recession.

MARTIN: Correct, about 18 and a half - wow, almost two years ago now.

MARTIN: Yeah. And the subtitle of the book is "Not Sit on Your Parents' Couch and Eat Chips Forever."

MARTIN: No, no, it's not become a hippie, makes no money and does nothing with their lives, no.

MARTIN: No, so how did you get the idea, and what is your advice?

MARTIN: You know, basically, I believe the economic outlook for what Gen Y has been through has been worse and worse by the day. And frankly, you know, why folks like myself and Tina are putting together a movement through the Young Entrepreneur Council - which is another initiative that we're spearheading - is because we need to think more about creating a job to keep a job.

You know, the average open position for an entry level position, you know, can be going anywhere from 75 to 1,000-plus resumes. And the chances of getting that opportunity at any given point, close to 1 percent, so I think we have to become the most self-sufficient, entrepreneurial generation in history or we're going to become a lost generation.

MARTIN: Tina, let's hear your story. And I think a lot of people who read magazines like Essence, for example, or business magazines may already have heard about you. You're in your 12th year of business at the tender age of - you don't mind my telling - 31.

MARTIN: No. I'll be 31 this year. That's right.

MARTIN: You'll be 31 this year. You've been in business for 12 years.

MARTIN: Fifteen years.

MARTIN: Fifteen years. How did you start?

MARTIN: You know, my story is similar to Scott's. I never thought that I would ever actually own a business. I always tell people my business is a result of my passion for pop culture. I started out as a writer for a newspaper for girls, called "The New Girl Times," and started writing product reviews, which turned into market research.

And when I was about 18 years old, someone gave me a tip and said listen, I just paid someone $25,000 for a report that's not even a tenth as good as yours. And you have a business; go figure it out. And so I went to the head of the business department at my college and said, this is what I've been doing for two years, and can you help me out? And she, thankfully, with her guidance and independent study, turned my little idea into a full-fledged business in about three months.

MARTIN: Really? You know, what's interesting too, is we noticed the data shows at least until the downturn, that women were starting small businesses at a faster rate than men. And also, women of color are among the people who have the fastest rate of business formation. And I'd like to ask each of you - Tina, I'll start with you. Why do you think that is?

MARTIN: I have to say, I agree with you. And I think that, especially when it comes to women and entrepreneurship, I think we've learned that we really have to create our own opportunities. You know, we hear about a glass ceiling and I'm often asked, do you experience that? And I have to be honest and say, no, I don't. Not as a young woman, not as a woman of color, you know, and not just as a woman in general, because I created my own opportunity.

And I always say, the only color people see in my business is green. And my business is about creating information that really, you know, in essence, helps other people make money.

MARTIN: And Scott, are there areas - well, first of all, I want to get your take on that question. And I also want to know if you think there are any particular fields that are amenable to, or offer particular opportunity for young people who want to start thinking about creating their own jobs, as opposed to getting a job.

MARTIN: Absolutely. Well, the first thing I would say is, you know, what the Young Entrepreneur Council is doing right now, with Buzz Marketing Group in partnership, is basically creating an expansive study of youth unemployment and young entrepreneurship, and how the two have come together. And what we're finding, you know - and the survey results will be announced in a couple of weeks - but what we're finding is that...

MARTIN: Speaking of a little marketing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, most people we find are not joining, you know, the entrepreneurial ranks en masse because of the fact that they think that there's no resources. They think that there's something that's not available. But those that are very up to date and educated and realize that they haven't had opportunities in the traditional workforce, they have proceeded. And we were shocked to find how many people have jumped into the entrepreneurial ranks from multiple different areas, where you wouldn't necessarily expect it.

MARTIN: If you just tuned in, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with entrepreneur Scott Gerber and Tina Wells. And they're talking about why young people should stop looking for a job and start thinking about creating jobs.

You know, if I think about it, I think maybe a lot of people are entrepreneurs and don't even realize that they are. For example, Tina, I'm thinking about girls that do hair for their friends, for example. You know? Or people who bake. But one of the traditional impediments for both, you know, people who don't necessarily think of themselves as entrepreneurs, is capital. So I'd like to ask either of you - whoever, which of you thinks you'd like to handle this question - what about the whole question of capital?

I mean, one of the things we're hearing in this downturn is that a lot of people can't get access to capital. And we hear that small-business people are particularly affected by this. Do you - go ahead, Tina.

MARTIN: Well, I think we - first, I want to say that your hunch is exactly right. One of things I wanted to ask in the survey was, even if you are currently employed, do you have a side - you know, entrepreneurial venture? And amazingly, about 40 percent of respondents do, you know. My mom's an amazing cook and baker, and she's one of those people, like you said, who has made thousands of dollars on the side, you know, doing this.

And I've told her, now, let's work your way up to - I don't know, if it's a food cart to your dream of a restaurant. But I think that we're noticing in this economy, people are starting to take those small steps towards full-time entrepreneurship.

MARTIN: Absolutely. I mean, you know, taking that exact point, you know, again, it's such a misconception that people think you need a lot of money to start a business. The key is you have to base your business on simple, nuts and bolts, practical businesses, particularly service-based businesses, now, where young people can make a big splash very quickly with no real finances behind it because there is no money involved in you going out and selling.

So it's when you start thinking about these Facebook, you know, grandiose plans of building the next massive platform or billion-dollar business, where your ego is getting in the way of what actually can be accomplished - that's when you end up in a big problem.

MARTIN: One of the reasons I think I hear you encouraging young people to think in an entrepreneurial fashion earlier is that when you're young, you don't have as many people to think about as yourself. I mean, that you can maybe live at home for a while while you're getting your business launched. And Tina, you were still in college.

MARTIN: Yeah. I was in high school when I started my business.

MARTIN: In high school.

MARTIN: So, I always talk about the fact that I lived at home. You know, I had no start-up expenses and - but also going to college, I had the resources of some of the smartest people that at this juncture in my life, would cost me hundreds of dollars an hour. If I wanted to understand, you know, the statistics in my poll, I could go to the head of the stats division. If I wanted to talk to someone about the psychology of the questions I was asking, I would just go to my professor with whom I was taking a psychology course.

So, you know, I think, also, don't underestimate those resources that we are actually paying for, you know. Private education is very expensive, but use those resources while you're still at the university level to start your business.

MARTIN: Tina, is there any advice that you wish you had been given when you were starting out in, oh, I don't know, elementary school?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I'm sorry, it's just hard for me to sort of envision when you were young, 'cause you already are, you know, so young. But is there any advice you wish you had been given early on?

MARTIN: I was very lucky. I always joke with my friends that my dad was like an in-house motivational speaker. And he would always say to me, Tina, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I think one thing that a lot of us - my generation of entrepreneurship, 'cause I've been doing this for 15 years, is, you know, maybe not planning for a rainy day.

And, you know, when 2008 came, I think it was like, torrential downpours for many of us that had just kind of rolled with the punches. And so I would say now, as a more seasoned entrepreneur, it's more about planning for the rainy day, and not just executing one idea or one product - really figuring out, you know, how do we cover our bases in case a 2008, 2009 happens again.

MARTIN: Scott, final thought from you?

MARTIN: You know, I think that we have an opportunity. And I think that if we can begin to shift the traditional thought into what this new economy has turned young people into - which I do believe can be, you know, entrepreneurs - I do believe that innovation, economic return and stimulus, all these different things are going to come back.

But I think that if we continue to push young people down the path of you must do this, this and this - to go up that antiquated mindset that for so many, is not happening - I frankly think that we're going to be pushing our youth in the wrong direction; pushing our country, and internationally, in the wrong direction. So I think if we can focus those efforts on this problem, we can solve the problem ourselves.

MARTIN: Scott Gerber is an entrepreneur. He's author of the book "Never Get a Real Job." And he joined us from our bureau in New York. Tina Wells is the founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group. She joined us from Philadelphia. Thank you both so much for speaking with us.

MARTIN: Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

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