Anil Ethanur |
The Changing World of Work
There is a lot in common between running a marathon and having a successful career. They both require preparation, planning, focus, tenacity and stamina. There is also an element of ‘pacing yourself’ which is critical. I have been in the staffing industry for close to two decades and in the numerous conversations that I have had with my candidates, the underlying changes that are gripping the world of work are becoming apparent to me. I have come to realize some significant and irreversible shifts that are occurring to the content and characteristics to the way we see work today. Re-engineering of jobs is happening at a fast pace. Automation is no longer a distant threat. Our economies are experiencing jobless growth and show no signs of abating. No one is spared the feeling of vulnerability in their jobs. It would be naive to expect that governments, organizations, regulators ought to step in and bail us out. It would be a personal mountain to climb and we’ll have to develop our own toolkit.
Its estimated that companies are spending 792 Billion USD on contingent and freelance workforce. In the U.S, one in three jobs is already going to contracted or freelance workers. Of course, India is not yet there. The moot point: do we want to wait for the tsunami to hit us unprepared, or do we want to take notice and adapt
While the millennial workers are seeking autonomy, flexibility and greater work-life balance; new age companies are seeking to cut cost, stay lean and outsourcing as many functions and activities they possibly can. Companies are not only reducing payroll jobs but also fundamentally change how employees work. It is with this backdrop that I am attempting to decipher the changes and the employment models in front of us. Think of this as interchangeable tracks to pursue in order to reach your career goals. Each of the tracks calls for different sets of competencies and mindsets to help you stay on course.
1. Nine-to-fivers (Full time employment)
This is still the signification proportion of jobs but the situation is far from comforting. These jobs are gradually being eroded and substituted by alternate engagement models as enumerated in the points below. By definition, these are jobs with a clear job title, description and goals. The companies that offer such jobs often have clear organograms and work is distributed amongst departments and the processes are well laid out. Even if you have luckily landed such a job, it’s advisable to focus on up-skilling to stay in the race. Staying in a certain role, level or company for too long can only jeopardies your employability. Best way to thrive in such an environment is to take on projects that are critical to your company’s growth or join cross-functional teams. In other words, think more like a vendor and less like an employee.
2. Startup Life (New age full-time work)
If you work for a current day start-up, you’ll know what this is like. This is characterized by quickly changing job roles and accountabilities. Most start-ups are devoid of traditional command and control management style. You may find a few work rules and processes to follow. It is likely there would be fewer job titles and a flat organization. This kind of organization enables people to form teams, and dismantle itself when the project goal is accomplished.
3. Contract Professional (Temp Agency work)
If you are at an early stage of your career or looking for a shift in your career, this track may be ideal for you. Getting to work on fixed term project is not a bad thing. Think of this as regular employment but with an end date. Interesting projects with some of the best-known companies may come your way via this route. Also, chances are that you may find full-time employment is a possibility with a company where you started out as a contractor. Use this term to sharpen your skills and build your CV.
Until now, freelancers were looked upon as people who have been ejected out of regular employment and people who are moonlighting till they land a permanent or a contractual job. If you are in a creative field or an IT professional, you are likely to be in demand on any of the sites such as Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr. Freelancing a growing tribe of individuals who want better control over their time, and choose the type and amount of work they want to engage in.
If you are an expert in your craft and have enjoyed working alone, then this track is for you. You are almost an entrepreneur but with no intention of building a team or organization around you. You are the master of your own destiny and take on work that you are truly passionate about. However, things are not a walk in the park. They are many challenges to surmount: How do you monetize your time? How to build a network of trusted clients who would give you recurring projects? How to juggle multiple projects at a given time?
Given these options, one can choose the track that works best for him/her at various points in their life to stitch up a career that is fulfilling and rewarding. Days are not far from people running a number of micro businesses at the same time – brand consulting for a few ventures, renting their extra room to Airbnb, and a teaching assignment in the neighborhood college. Be prepared for the many twists and turns in your career journey, but the good news is you are in the driver seat to take charge!