Free agents in the corporate world
The growing opportunities of our “gig” economy
You’re not part of a rock band playing a one-night gig or an artist working in residence for a few months. You’re a career professional working in a major corporation. You’ve put in your time to get where you are. So, what’s with the growing number of consultants, contract workers and freelancers you see working alongside you? Is this a shift that has some permanency and if so, is it a good thing or a bad thing? More importantly, what might it mean to your career and financial planning long term?
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Some say it’s all part of America’s gig economy, an outgrowth of nearly a decade ago when jobs were scarce and people became comfortable hopping from one role to the next to survive. “That was then, this is now,” says John Lame, Lenox CEO, who believes “free agents signal the Uberization of the professional workforce, and that as many as one-third of employees in large companies will eventually participate.”
There are a number of theories around the popularity of “free agents” in the corporate world. Here are just a few.
1. More job openings than people to fill them.
Some employers are scrambling to fill positions and are defaulting to contract, part-time workers and retirees to get the job done. According to the WSJ, “Jobs Go Unfilled as the Economy Expands”, August 8, 2018... “Job openings are piling up in the transportation, retail and business services sectors as workers become scarce in the fast-growing economy. According to Labor Department data released yesterday, there were 6.7 million job openings on average in the three months ended in June 2018––the highest quarterly level on record dating back to 2001.”
2. No time to find, interview, vet and hire a full-time employee.
If a business is already slammed with orders and work is piling up, they need to find someone with the skills they need now! It makes sense they would bring in people on a project basis to get the work done until they can find the full-time worker they seek.
3. Free agents can be less expensive than a full-time employee.
While consultants may command a higher fee per hour, they are available without the overhead, benefits, healthcare costs, etc. of a full-time employee, making them a financially-sound choice for project-based assignments
4. Your company is undergoing change and hiring full-timers is too big of a commitment.
In most cases, free agents are a short-term hire making them easier to get rid of than full-time workers. Their higher cost per hour is balanced by a company’s ability to let them go on short notice without a severance or hard feelings. The temporary relationship is understood by all parties.
5. Free agents can add a fresh perspective and broader insights.
It can be a good thing to get some new thinking and a different set of eyes on one’s business. Free agents have the benefit of exposure to a variety of companies and best practices. It might be interesting to see what they bring to the table.
HOW DO YOU SEE IT?
Where do you stand on the matter of free agents in the corporate world? Do you see yourself a forever full-time corporate employee, or are there aspects of being a free agent that might well suit your skill sets, your personality, your family and financial life, your income aspirations and your ability to build personal wealth? Are you willing to rethink how your career might shake out over a lifetime doing what you love but as a free agent? Change is rarely easy, but the idea of being a free agent can prove to be both personally and financially rewarding.
“Too often we get lulled to sleep and believe we have to have one employer, never recognizing when we can make more money, have more flexibility on time, do more interesting and unique work, and increase our personal growth rate by choosing to be a ‘free agent’,” notes John Lame.
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