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Everyone loves the Internet. It’s a place of endless music, streaming movies, research, shopping opportunities and cat pictures. It enables us to talk with people on the other side of the planet at the tap of a finger. In short, it’s the ultimate content consumption and communication device. But how many of us look at it as an employment sector?

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda said at a press conference on new digital priorities for 2013-2014:

When it comes to jobs, I want you to know that the internet creates jobs.

In the year 2012 many young people are struggling to find a job, youth unemployment rates in Greece and Spain are at 50%. It’s not easy to find jobs anywhere, not just in those countries most hit by the recession. Stories of highly qualified individuals with no job abound. The stacking up of diplomas continues but they don’t convert into stable positions. Maybe the problem is not that there are no jobs but that we are simply looking for them in the wrong place?

As more and more manual and repetitive work is automated, computerized and outsourced many jobs vanished. And we keep banging on the same doors, expecting different results.

According to Kroes we might benefit from a bit more entrepreneurial spirit and instead of trying to sell ourselves to employers and send out hundreds if CVs we could just create our own jobs.

I want Europeans to see that creating your own job is sexy – and the internet makes it possible. We need more people brave enough to take that opportunity.

Why is it that so few people do it? Is it so difficult to become an “Internet worker”? Is it only for programmers and venture capitalists? Far from it. The missing component is neither the lack of IT-knowledge (every pre-teen) handles digital systems effortlessly nowadays, nor is it the money, for it doesn’t have to cost much to create something on the Internet. The real problem seems to be something else entirely: the aversion to risk taking.

As a German I can only confirm that our mentality favors the time-tested and thoroughly thought through over the hastily improvised. “Just do it” might be a popular label on shoes and T-shirts but in reality we’d rather “plan a long time and prepare testing scenarios and collect research”.

We Europeans love stability. We’re the old continent. We have seen it all, we’re not easily moved by anything. This might give us a levelheadedness but there’s also the danger of falling asleep.

No Risk, No Fun?

Maybe we should reevaluate the dynamics of risk. In 2005, researchers from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), the University of Bonn and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin conducted a survey in which they evaluated more than 20,000 interviews and found that people who enjoy taking risks seem to be more content with their lives.

But are they more content because they are willing to take more risks or do they take more risks because they feel more content?

Tom Ashbrook, founder of HomePortfolio, Inc. writes:

To seriously consider taking the entrepreneurial leap already sets a person apart from the vast majority of men and women, who will never come close to actually leaving the world of wages. But even for the brave-of-heart, the reality of risk that comes with that leap — when the last paycheck is left behind and life is reduced to a single do-or-die mission — hits like ice water.

How can one prepare for for this leap? In my experience there is no way one can be prepared fully, one can only experience it and learn from it. Nevertheless, Ashbrook has some solid advice that everyone who considers making the leap should think about.

“Don’t take the entrepreneurial leap simply for money. Of course, you want to be successful. But follow a real passion in your venture, whatever it may be. That passion will carry you through the days when risks and obstacles seem insurmountable. When the chips are down, your passion can be a great stabilizer, a powerful antidote to the inevitable emotional challenges of risk.”

It’s not just that this passion will carry you through the bleak days (of which there are many, just like the sunny ones), but it’s this spirit which will help you create products or services that have a genuinely positive impact on people’s life. Being an entrepreneur is not just another job where there’s always someone else higher up the ladder who’s calling the shots. You might make a lot of money very quickly, you might have to wait years before you can leave your one room apartment. But ultimately, this is not just a quest for financial security, it’s a matter of personal satisfaction and contributing to the world in ever new creative ways.


Img: Russian workers posters