The rules of work have changed. And if you’re still operating under the old rules, you will fail.
Got your attention, have I?
The Old Rules
The old rules went something like this: you take a job in a hierarchical, structured, stable organization with a solid bricks and mortar business model - and stay there for thirty-plus years, moving up the ladder and getting pay raises according to the rules, until you retire with a pension and benefits provided by the kindly Big Daddy that is the company.
The New Rules
No job is secure. You can expect to change careers five to seven times in the course of your life. You can be laid off from any job at any time. Your CEO can be fired at any time. Your company’s products or services can become outmoded and obsolete in the blink of an eye. You will not have a pension. You might not even have a employer match to your retirement account contributions. You might not get health insurance through an employer.
Nothing is certain. Nothing is sure.
In today’s uncertain work world, there’s only one way to cope.
And it might be a challenge to wrap your head around. Ready?
Today, to be successful, you have to be a freelancer.
I’m not saying to quit your job and start your own gig. Although, 40 million Americans have done precisely that. I’m suggesting that you operate from the liberating mindset of being a freelance consultant. “I’m here, I’m doing the work, I’m succeeding – until I’m not, and then I’ll move on to something else.”
A freelance mindset alleviates a lot of problems. Like caring too much.
Now I’m sure I have your attention.
I have had clients who have been so immersed and over-involved with their work that they have had to be hospitalized for exhaustion. I have had people come to me after being fired from a job they loved – and astounded that the organization could go on without them.
But it can. It does. It will.
Plenty of us over-identify with our work. Work becomes Who We Are, rather than letting who and what we love be Who We Are. Coming at your job the way a freelance consultant would – committed, connected, productive, slightly detached – allows you a little breathing room. Enough breathing room to have a life.
When you think, “Geez, I am going to have to be in this job for thirty years, I better play it safe,” guess what you do? You play it safe. You work to CYA rather than create. You move slowly, cautiously.
Maybe you even walk on eggshells around your boss, because you can’t risk losing your job.
Because you have to be there for thirty years, right?
When I’m a freelancer and you’re a freelancer and the boss is a freelancer and we all know that we are here until we’re not – collaboration can happen more easily. Office politics diminish. Productivity soars.
Because we take some of the emotion out, and replace it with a little bit of detachment. We can dare to risk. We can challenge each other to create.
Freelancers are always looking out for the next assignment, the next gig, the next thing. My pal Pam Slim recommends having a “side hustle” – that thing you have going on the side, that – if push comes to shove – you could turn into your job. Like my sister-in-law who is a teacher and has a high school reunion planning business. Which is the side hustle? Guess it depends on the day you ask her.
Under the new rules of work, when even teachers, government workers and people at IBM are losing their jobs, having a viable side hustle keeps you from walking on eggshells. Because, people, with a side hustle all your eggs are not invested in one tiny little basket of a job.
If you’re in a toxic work environment, if you’re not happy, if you are stuck – what you’ve got to do is simple. Realize that the rules have changed, and go with it. Become a freelancer in your mind, and watch your attitude at work change. Then, watch your work change.