Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Three-Part Answer to What Do You Do?

I am noticing more and more that when you ask someone for a business card, the individual pauses to decide which one he or she should give you. For example, an accountant might carry one that prominently shows a CPA credential and another one that identifies the individual as a consultant. I have also met two individuals who offer one card for resume writing services primarily to entry-level job seekers and another for career coaching aimed at more experienced workers.

These aren’t marketing ploys, but indicative of a rapidly changing marketplace. The assumption of many identities is a natural result. There is a need to have greater varied appeal in the marketplace so there is a willingness to be identified with a number of different descriptions.

In conjunction with this, there is also an increasing understanding that job security and employer and employee loyalty is rapidly disappearing. Cost-cutting is focusing on higher-salaried benefits and reducing benefits. Individuals are beginning to understand that to protect themselves it pays to simultaneously have three separate vocations so they aren’t reliant upon a single job for their livelihood. A good example is the individual that works for accounting firm, also does independent consulting on the side, and is the part-time editor of a magazine.

It used to be that individuals worked more than one job in order to provide for the immediate needs of their family. Now, it is in part because of the uncertainty of continued employment. The Internet helps as it is very easy to market oneself as a consultant, establish an online business presence, etc. These additional vocations provide comfort in knowing that you can hit the ground running immediately, rather than having to spend substantial time reeducating yourself and trying to begin a new career.

We keep hearing that most people will have many different employers and even careers in their lifetime. Won’t it be better some of these jobs and careers are concurrent?


  1. Howard,

    isn't it also an indicator that technology and global capabilities effect different people differently? If one has the understanding and sophistication to take advantage of those capabilities, it super-charges you. If you don't have that understanding and sophistication, you get eulogized.

    Maybe what we're witnessing is the end of the layered management/scientific management era and ushering in an era of cottage industries. Maybe the term isn't correct, but hopefully the idea makes sense. Does a company need five to ten layers of management or can they operate two or three and then pull outside specialists in as their needed? And it would make sense for specialists to carry multiple business cards.

    Thanks for the insight. More and more I'm beginning to understand William Gibson's line: "The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed."

  2. Thanks for the comments. Love the William Gibson quote.