Free Agents in the New World of Work
Employer-employee trends are not simply corporate-driven phenomena. American workers have increasingly decided to become free agents. This trend is pervasive because people desire greater control of their destinies.
Most workers want greater control but also want to find balance between work and the rest of their lives (family, church, recreation, etc). One way to accomplish this is with a new paradigm. Your mindset about your employment needs to change from that of being an employee of one organization to one of contributing your core skills simultaneously to one or more organizations. Better yet, think of yourself as “Me, Inc.” (i.e., Paul, Inc.; Mary, Inc.; Anybody, Inc.)!
This shift in attitude requires you to stop thinking of yourself as a small, unimportant employee in a large, important organization. Instead, begin carrying the confidence that you are a valuable entity in the total equation, and that you provide the valuable skills and experience that can benefit an organization.
If you don’t make this mental adjustment:
- You’ll continue to think of yourself and your career as a small cog in a huge gear system
- You’ll always assume others are responsible for your career, for your personal development and even for your well-being
- Your destiny largely will be dictated by others
There’s a Better Alternative … Take a Marketing Approach to Your Product: You
Think of it like this: you are a product - a valuable, marketable product with a variety of capabilities that can be utilized for many different functions, potentially within a variety of companies. You are an entrepreneur, responsible for the success of this product called “Me.”
Your job is to optimize the Five P's of Marketing: Product, Packaging, Promotion, Price, and Place - all of which are grounded in your overall strategy of how to maximize your success:
Investing in Your Product
You’ll want to ensure that your product has the best capabilities, the best features, the most marketable skills, and the greatest knowledge to accomplish the goals you aspire to achieve. This will require your time, your energy, and in many cases your personal investment in training and development. Personal development won’t happen overnight; it likely will involve a lifetime of commitment.
Packaging your Product
You’ll make certain that your product (you, of course) is well understood by the available market (potential employers). You’ll do this by ensuring that your “features,” your “benefits”, and your “fit” are clearly defined and that the market recognizes how and where you can best contribute.
Promotion and Sales
You’ll also take responsibility for publicizing your capabilities to ensure that potential employers know who you are and how to find you if they need your skills. To succeed, you must become adept at clearly stating your value, your unique capabilities and your commitment to serve your clients. You’ll need testimonials from organizations that have experienced the benefits of your “product" and other companies that might also benefit. Many people struggle with this because it isn’t comfortable for most of us to brag about ourselves. You’ll have to get over it. Promotion also likely will require you to develop strong networking skills to help identify opportunities.
With the "Me, Inc." mindset, you’ll have a good sense of your worth in the job market and which companies are willing to pay people with similar skills and attributes. Remember, your product’s value likely is greater (at least in terms of dollars per hour) to a company than it would be for a more traditional, “permanent” employee.
Where is your product available, and how can an employer buy some, or all, of your available time? Your physical presence may be needed at the company you're working for, but it’s increasingly possible to deliver your knowledge and skills on a somewhat “virtual” basis, largely because of the advances in communications, the Internet and other related collaborative tools.
Remember, each of these dimensions applies as much to the person who is working full time for one employer as it does to the person who chooses to leverage their skills across more than one company. It simply represents a new paradigm for all of us.
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