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Millennials creatively forge own career

Searching for a new home, Rachel Millman found combing through online listings with static images tedious.

A video tour of each house would better help her decide which to tour in person.

The real estate agents she met were receptive to the idea so she knew now was the right moment. She quit her full-time magazine job and, at age 25, founded Reel Estate Media, a company that works with real estate agents to record walk-through videos of houses for sale and video profiles for the agents themselves.

"I've been thinking of starting my own company pretty much since I graduated from college," says Millman, who graduated in May 2011 after studying electronic media and film. "I thought: 'I'm young. Now's the time,' and I just decided to do it, probably against the better judgment of a lot of people."

Her decision to forgo the stability of a full-time job with a guaranteed income mirrors a trend among millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s), those between the ages of 18 and 34.

More millennials are creating their own jobs, either because they can't find work or because they would rather be their own bosses.

A 2011 study by the nonprofit entrepreneurs' support organisation Young Entrepreneur Council and Buzz Marketing Group put the percentage of self-employed millennials in the US at 27 per cent. Another 2011 study by the Affluence Collaborative, a market research consultancy, estimated that 40 per cent started businesses or were planning to.

A May 2013 study by research and management firm Millennial Branding and online freelance marketplace oDesk says any urban locale with a growing millennial set will experience an increase in those who identify as self-employed. The Millennials and the Future of Work survey found that nearly 60 per cent of millennials worldwide who had been freelancing on the side while in a full-time job quit that job to work for themselves.

Concerned about travelling from one company to the next and "hitting a financial ceiling" each time she found new employment, Millman says she liked the prospect of going out on her own.

Alicia Sasser Modestino, a senior economist of 10 years with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, she's not alone in an economy where pay for workers with bachelor's degrees has increased by just one per cent over the last decade.

"Right now there aren't a lot of jobs out there, but going back to a formal education is very expensive," Modestino says. "It could be very attractive to these millennials to just strike out on their own."

An economic Policy Institute report in May found that unemployment for those aged 21-24 is at 8.5 per cent; underemployment, defined as those who have given up looking for work or have work but don't receive the on-the-job hours they require, stands at 16.8 per cent.

"This is really a problem of a broad-based lack of job opportunities," says Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, a liberal group that studies and proposes policies to benefit low- and middle-income Americans.

"There's going to be a larger swath of millennials who don't get a job regardless of what they do."

Loyola University Maryland professor Peter Lorenzi says anecdotal evidence shows that millennials start their own companies out of necessity.

"Students who do businesses on the side in school - it's more desperation than inspiration," says Lorenzi.

"They're strapped for cash. They're not prepared for corporate work, (and) they're not going to get the offer for corporate work. They have to do something to earn a living, and it's an extension of what they've been doing."