In 2011, The Economist declared freelancing as the future of work. Instead of being a cause for celebration, the demise of traditional jobs has produced fear and agitation. Policy-makers the world over are painstakingly focused on manufacturing jobs, while the media agonize over automation and AI.
In fact, it is the nature of work, which is changing. Today, technology and globalization are altering the way people work and how long they stay with one employer. In October last year, a McKinsey study found that between and 20 and 30 per cent of workers in Europe and the US are participating in the gig economy, namely working independently and relying on a combined income from projects (gigs), rather than on a steady monthly salary.
Changing jobs often is the ultimate strategy for survival in the gig economy.
Not only are jobs not what they used to be, the world has become more competitive than ever. Employees are no longer rewarded for acquiring plenty of firm-specific knowledge. Spending more than five years with the same firm is perceived as opportunities by-gone, not as a competitive advantage.
What we perceive to be a “good” job has also changed. Manufacturing and office jobs used to be the core of middle-class stability. At present, winning in the labor market means building your individual capital, being flexible and adaptable, a life-learner, keeping your skills as fresh. A good job must enhance your skill set, despite this being what you will take to your next job. The best way for you to keep up with the complex gig economy is to change jobs frequently.
From before the 2008 financial crisis, most job turnover has been at the employee’s free will. The shift from traditional job security to greater independence in work seems strange today. But it is jobs, as we understand them today, that are the new concept.
Before the Industrial Revolution, most people were self-employed – baking bread, making shoes, selling milk and meat, etc. Individuals created value, which was later exchanged for other goods and services. Staying with the same employer for too long can lead to you losing touch with the real world. Spending too much time in the same office cubicle can lead to you focusing on office politics, instead of on your market value. It’s a good idea to let yourself be blown by the winds of today’s dynamic talent ecosystem.
To persuade you even further why you should think of your job as a planned obsolescence good, here is a list of three strengths you can develop only by changing jobs often.
1. Awareness of your true “market value”
It’s impossible to know what you as an employee are worth in the labor market if you stay at one place for too long. Your employer and colleagues may have a difficult time to keep up with your intellectual and professional advancement. This can result in you being perceived as who you were when you started, not who you are now. A new employer will have a fresh and updated look on your career path. With each new job change, you get to redefine yourself in whichever way you like. This is what will help you grow and prosper.
2. Keeping your skill set up-to-date
You are bound to begin performing your job robotically if you stay with the same employer for too long. In result, you may lose touch with the outside world. In order to keep up with innovations, trends and industry advancements, you have to move around. Being with the same company for too long can result in you never leaving your comfort zone and thus missing out on crucial learning opportunities. Switching jobs is the way to constantly improve your skill set, gain new inside information and develop your human capital. Changing jobs is what lets you stay open and curious, ready to explore what your industry has to offer.
3. Grow your network and reputation.
The more organizations you have been employed with, the larger your network of influence. The best time to leave a job is at the peak of your performance – right after scoring a major deal or achieving some tangible success. If you follow this strategy you are bound to leave a trail of people, who only have good things to say about you. The more organizations you work with, the more talented people you know. This is particularly important if you are thinking of starting your own business in the future. Contacts always come in handy.
In the end, you can always rely on inspiration from someone who had it right. Benedict Evans, who currently works with Andreessen Horowitz (the venture capital firm, which invested in Facebook, Lyft, Airbnb, BuzzFeed, Foursquare, etc.), went “plural” in 2009, namely working freelance on a number of projects. Before that he switched jobs frequently, building his human capital at Orange, Channel 4 and NBC Universal. He attributes his strategic mind to changing jobs often. This is what allowed him to pinpoint what is going on today and accurately predict future trends.
Discovering the next Airbnb or Facebook is just a side benefit. This doesn’t go to say that you should quit your job today. But maybe you should start thinking about it.