What happens when freelancing becomes the norm?
The US is no longer an industrial-based society where you can count on having a job for life and a sparkly new watch at your retirement party. (And forget about that pension.) According to the Freelancers Union, one in three workers are now toiling as freelancers, temps, “permalancers”, perma-temps, contractors, contingent workers, etc. That amounts to some 42 million freelancers in the US – people who are working without the benefit of employer-sponsored health insurance, 401k plans and flexible spending accounts. – How America is becoming a nation of freelancers
Meanwhile in the UK, self-employment is on the rise.
Self-employment rose by 101,000 to 4.12 million in the three months through November and accounts for 14.1 percent of total employment, figures released by the Office for National Statistics today show. It has grown about 8 percent since the start of the recession in 2008, while the number of employees has fallen 3 percent. – UK self-employment driven by desperation
The automation and outsourcing of work is becoming our wicked problem to deal with as we move into the network era. Most workers have no control over the economy or the changes in the means of production. They just have to roll with the punches, which are coming faster and faster. However, there is one area where workers can take control; relatively easily and inexpensively. They can take control of their professional development.
Most recruiters will tell you that the time to build your network is before you become unemployed. It’s the same with professional development. If the only knowledge-building activities you do are ones mandated by your employer, then you may be in trouble. Developing a network of thoughtful people who can help in your professional life would be a good start. For example, mapping and understanding your network is the first activity in my PKM workshop. I suggest that everyone needs to develop Net Work Skills.
If you think there is a possibility of spending some time in the future as either unemployed, contractual, or freelancing, then now is the time to build a professional development network. Seek out people who can help you; begin habits of regular sense-making activities; and start to share, because only by sharing will you meet the people you should be seeking in the first place.
There are many barriers to directing your professional development from inside your organization, but almost none outside the workplace, other than time and motivation. As Donald Taylor advised, when I asked for suggestions about how to prepare for an unexpected career change, “My advice: always foster your whole network and give as well as take. Don’t wait until you need them. I always say “Never let your first message to someone be a demand for help.” Derek Warnick suggested, “Don’t wait another year to make the change…” With almost limitless access to shared knowledge, it’s easier today than any time before to take control of your professional development.