Back in the day, there was a cartoon character whose catch phrase was ‘now waaaaayyyy a minute’ when things didn’t sound quite right. That is instinctively what I thought as soon as I read a recent article in Forbes predicting a future in which stable careers are replaced by low wage temp work. While I do believe that permanency in employment is decreasing (and I wrote about it back in 2008), I think the Forbes author chose the cautionary tale route versus the “let’s get prepared for it” one. If you read me regularly, you’ll know I believe that when it comes to your career, have no fear.
Let’s start where the author and I agree. Permanency is certainly losing ground on almost all career-related fronts. Employers aren’t hiring as many permanent employees and businesses themselves are becoming less permanent (see companies like Blockbuster, RIM, etc.). Much of this lack of permanency is due to the increasingly fluid nature of skill sets. Consider this: twelve years ago, no one knew what SEO was. Now there are SEO specialists. However, I would argue that too much specialization can be a detriment; I think being a generalist has a better long-term outcome. I had two cousins who ‘specialized’ in running a printing press – that didn’t work out so well for them. And while SEO is a great skill now, who’s to say what its value will be in 10 years. Make yourself a marketing generalist instead and be ready to bob and weave.
Where the Forbes author and I most disagree is that without permanency (so 20th Century), most jobs will become temporary work with low wages. That may be true for some, but it doesn’t have to be true for all. Even the author concedes that “there are certainly highly-skilled and in-demand professionals who are able to parlay their hired-gun status into big paydays.” How fitting that she used the term “hired-gun.”
Here is what will separate the low-wage temps from Hired Guns:
- Guns will create their own brand and market it as the markets change
- Guns will keep improving and expanding their skills
- Guns will expect change and will act when change comes
- Guns will see opportunity in both full-time or freelance work and know that neither is better and both will be necessary throughout their career
Now aren’t you glad you’re a gun!