Preparing to Thrive in the Workforce

Tips on the transition for what comes next.

We can all agree that today’s work environment is in a radical state of change. At the Jaycee’s World Congress, business guru Steven Covey delivered a shocking prediction to 5,000 attendees (all under age 40) when he said, “Ninety-plus percent of white-collar jobs will be totally gone, merged or likewise changed in the next decade.”

What does that mean to the generation that is either presently graduating or beginning to pursue a profession? To not merely survive but actually thrive in this rapidly changing work environment, you must have an ability to market the “commodity of self.”

As young professionals pour out of colleges and climb career ladders, two things have become crystal clear: First, everyone must assume the role of an “independent contractor,” and second, those independent contractors who can effectively market themselves (and their services) will have a distinct advantage.

In his book The Brand You 50 (Knopf), Tom Peters writes that regardless of whether someone is on a company’s payroll or running their own business, everyone is an independent contractor. “An independent contractor is self-reliant,” he says. “Dependent on her/his skills ... and the constant upgrading thereof. An independent contractor has ... in the end ... only her/his track record, i.e. her/his projects.”

In other words, a young, professional independent contractor has an education, talents, abilities and a developing body of work to market. The question is: What is the most effective marketing tool out there? As one business commentator said, “Recognize you are your best marketing tool.”

Independent contractors understand they are their own marketing department. They also realize that the two keys to highly effective marketing are: having sought-after (and ever-increasing) skill sets and possessing a strong network of personal contacts. Everything else generally falls under one of the following: skills and networks.

Skills

One pop culture slang saying sums up the idea: “You’ve got to have skills to pay the bills.” The more skills you have, the more opportunity you have for employment. The greater your willingness to work and acquire new skills, the greater your opportunity.

Experts would advise acquiring skills that are “recession-proof”—skills that people will pay you to perform regardless of the economy. Skills such as selling, accounting, computer programming and networking certainly fall into this category. But what about carpentry, welding, plumbing, public speaking and writing?

The more broad and diverse the skill sets, the wider the field can be to market. The greater the eagerness to learn new skills, the wider the field as well.

Networking

Best-selling business author Harvey Mackay believes the most effective way for anyone to get the job, the sale, the nod or the promotion boils down to networking—that timeless practice of meeting, building rapport and subsequently keeping up with people. The good news about networking is that everyone is actively engaged at some level of this practice daily.

Surviving and thriving in this age of the independent contractor requires boldness and an entrepreneurial spirit. Those who dare to embrace that fact will find themselves living in the age of opportunity.

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