Summer is here, and finding a job is still so hard that recent drops in the unemployment rate are less attributed to job creation than to people who have simply dropped out of the labor force altogether.
Technology has continued and will continue to change the job market.This doesn’t just mean cashiers and bank tellers being replaced by kiosks. Imagine factories using Google Glass to replace the expensive, on-site mechanics with freelancers who can work from home. Like it or not, the dependable, nine-to-five, fixed salary job of our parents’ generation won’t be available to many in our generation.But this doesn’t call for despair. It calls for creativity.When I was in my senior year, I read an article about a group of students at Purdue who started a moving company (Guys and Dollies) when they graduated. That’s when it struck me.The older generation and cable news have framed the economic crisis by talking about how hard it is to “find” jobs. The fatal flaw with framing the problem this way is that it teaches us to think about livelihoods as something we are supposed to “find” or “get,” instead of something we can build for ourselves. Starting a business or learning how to work for yourself is something that isn’t taught in most schools and wouldn’t have occurred to me had I not read that article and seen others do it. This is tragic and has to change, especially since now is the best time there has ever been to try to work for yourself.IU and the Bloomington community have tremendous resources for local and student startups. This past year the Clapp IDEA competition gave away $10,000 and office space in the Hoosier Hatchery (our startup incubator) to our school’s top entrepreneurs. The Best Aspiring Entrepreneur Program is giving several student startups (including mine) $5,000 grants to stay at IU and work full time on their business this summer. The Combine, a Bloomington startup conference, brought Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to campus and put on valuable workshops for local startups. The Verge, an Indy-based startup community, organizes regular meetups for local entrepreneurs. Sproutbox, a combination VC firm and incubator, helps take businesses from seed stage to the big stage right here in Bloomington. The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Kelley School of Business and the Elmore Entrepreneur Clinic co-sponsored by the law school help local entrepreneurs handle the more technical business- and law-related startup issues. And the Innovate Indiana Fund has literally millions of funding dollars earmarked exclusively for IU startups.This is all just the tip of the iceberg. I’m constantly discovering other great startup resources in Bloomington. Just recently I learned about an exclusively travel-based accelerator (RunUp Labs), and SpineSweat, a resource recently highlighted in another IDS article.If you’re not sure if starting a business is for you, freelance sites like elance.com can be a great opportunity to make some money this summer or, like the future freelance mechanic I mentioned earlier, make a real living for yourself. The best part of this freelance work? Startups and small businesses often can’t afford salaried employees, but we are constantly in the market for the skills of photographers, app developers, coders, graphic and web designers, social media managers, advertisers, blog writers and countless other talents who can work a freelance project.So, if you are part of that growing population of college students without a job lined up, stop worrying so much about finding your next boss, and consider being one instead.