Daniel H. Pink in “Free Agent Nation” writes “large permanent organizations with fixed rosters of individuals are giving way to small, flexible networks with ever-changing collections of talent.” The way we do business is changing, and so is the mindset of the worker.
Along with the disappearance of company and government guarantees that protected our careers and our retirement, more and more people are seeing the importance of developing personal strategic plans. To realize fulfilling careers, achieve balance in areas that are important to us, and live retirement in the way we see fit, it is only our own planning and well thought-out strategies that will get us there.
Because our lives are complex, personal strategic planning goes beyond business/career planning and includes financial, ethical, family, mental physical and social considerations. The bottom line is if we don’t do this for ourselves, nobody else will do it for us!
FREE AGENT THINKING
While it is not clear how many people are opting for work with more flexibility or independence (consultants, freelancers, individuals in 2-3 employee companies, telecommuters, part-timers, etc.), there is a growing contingent of people in the workforce who are thinking like free agents. The mindset is not just found in independents, but in employees who hop from project to project within a company, and in those who change jobs every few years.
Free agents are driven by their desire for personal empowerment and ongoing learning and growth. They maintain a constant focus on accountability, networking and opportunities for collaboration. Free agents see themselves as having the ability to challenge and shape their lives by defining success, working towards goals, and creating results.
LEARNING AND GROWTH
While many employees realize they have no choice but to keep learning, free agents thrive on the opportunity for ongoing personal and professional development. As education increases, so does confidence in the next career step. The more we know about our fields, the more we know about prospects and potential. Successful free agents know they need to keep building on their strengths to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
When you put your name on your business, you put yourself and your income on the line. Most people want to be held accountable if they can reap the rewards of success (even if there are penalties for failure). When you are only as good as your last project, there is a much greater focus on making each project excellent.
NETWORKING, COMMUNICATION and COLLABORATION
If you view work as an engagement rather than employment, a continuous assessment process takes place:
- What do I do?
- What have I done?
- Who among my customers will testify to it?
- Who new do I know, beyond this company’s/clients walls?
- Am I effectively getting my message out?
In the past, security came from working for a good company. Free agent thinkers gain security by spreading their risk across a portfolio of projects, clients, skills, and customers. To accomplish this, networking and building a strong Rolodex is a primary skill and activity.
Strategic partnerships and alliances can increase “reach” and enable a business to expand product and/or service offerings. Free agents are always looking for new opportunities to grow their value and expand their network.
IT’S WORTH IT!
While most people will not end up independently employed, personal strategic planning is important for everyone. As more people take ownership for devising strategies based on their own definition of success, I believe we will see increased accountability, a greater focus on quality, more people leveraging their natural strengths, and enhanced job satisfaction.
Written by Helene Mazur
Helene is the founder of Princeton Performance Dynamics, an executive coaching and strategic planning facilitation company for business and non-profit leaders and their teams. Helene’s passion is helping her clients to focus their goals, see new perspectives on their current situation, put in place realistic, motivating plans, and execute to achieve new levels of success.
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