Me, Inc. Part 2: Free Agents in the New World of Work

This is our second post in our Me, Inc. series that focuses on helping workers adjust their attitude to the changing workforce dynamics.

Free Agents Need Marketing 101

The employer-employee trends we talked about in our last post are not simply a corporation-driven phenomenon. American workers themselves have also decided in ever-increasing numbers that they would rather be free agents. Some estimate that these free agents will represent one-third of the workforce by 2010. This trend is so pervasive because people desire more control of their destiny.

Most workers want not only more control but also better balance between career and the rest of life (family, church, recreation, etc.). One way to accomplish that is with a new paradigm. Your mindset about your employment needs to change from that of being an employee of one organization to contributing your core skills to one or more organizations simultaneously. 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 of a large, important organization. Instead, begin carrying the confidence that you are a valuable entity in the total equation, and you provide your skills and experience to a business that can benefit from them. 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, your personal development and even your well-being
  • Your destiny will be largely 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 that has many capabilities and can be utilized for many different functions, potentially in a variety of companies. You are an entrepreneur responsible for the success of this product called “Me, Inc.,” and your job is to optimize the five Ps 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 most 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 will likely 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” are telling 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 will also likely require you to develop strong networking skills to help identify opportunities. 
  • Price
    With the Me, Inc. mindset, you’ll have a good sense of your worth in the job market and what companies are willing to pay people with similar skills and attributes. Remember, your product’s value is likely greater (at least in terms of dollars per hour) to a company than it would be for a more traditional “permanent” employee. 
  • Place
    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 are working for, but it’s increasingly possible to deliver your knowledge and skills on a somewhat “virtual” basis, largely because of advances in communications, the Internet and other related collaboration tools. 

Remember, each of these dimensions applies equally to the worker 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 represent a new paradigm for all of us.

What do you think?  I welcome your comments and/or your experience!

Comments

  1. Great article, Peter (both part 1 and part 2). As an executive recruiter for 12+ years, I’ve been reading about the coming trend of “free agency” for years, but this change has both accelerated and magnified the last 24 months. You touch on what I think are the two biggest adjustments we need to make.

    First, that we need to develop continually and strategically to ensure that we are always able to add value at the intersection of our interests/skill/gifting and the needs of the marketplace (which provides income security even where JOB security may be tenuous); and second, that we present ourselves much more as a solution to a specific problem (rather than a person needing a paycheck). The adage is true that, “No one drove to the hardware store because they needed a shovel. They did so because they needed a HOLE.”

  2. I agree… focusing on what employers or customers need, and then offering solutions they want is key to getting a job, whether you are an employee, independent contractor or you own your own business. Find out what they need most and match it with what you do best.

  3. I agree… focusing on what employers or customers need, and then offering solutions they want is key to getting a job, whether you are an employee, independent contractor or you own your own business. Find out what they need most and match it with what you do best.

  4. […] We continue our Me, Inc. series about how to adapt to propel ahead and experience career growth in today’s rapidly changing career environment with the third installment. View Part 1 and Part 2. […]

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