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Manage your career like a business

Manage your career like a business

“The idea of ‘employment’, as in a job that lasts for more than a few days or a few weeks, is going to be this very weird term by 2050.” So said futurist Mark Pesce. It turns out that in just a few decades’ time, we are all going to need to manage our careers like a business. What skills do you need for this new economy?

Be your own boss. Work from home. Do only the jobs you want to do. Does this sound like your career goal? By 2050 you may not have a choice. According to A Snapshot of Australia's Digital Future to 2050, an IBISWorld report commissioned by IBM, “the term ‘employee’ will probably go out of use in the second half of the 21st century as workers effectively become their own business, negotiating with other businesses on a contractual basis.”

The current trend certainly supports that trajectory. Research conducted by Monash University on behalf of workforce management agency Entity Solutions shows a ‘portfolio career’—one where workers take on a series of projects or contracts rather than a role within an organisation—is becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly more sophisticated.

Results from a survey published in Entity Solutions’ IPro Index 2013 confirms five years of its previous data:

  • 82% are ‘very satisfied’ with working as an IPro (independent professional)
  • Almost nine in 10 are ‘proud of the work they do’
  • Two in three ‘experience a sense of commitment to their current client’
  • 72% ‘feel that their current client organisation cares about their opinion’
  • 84% ‘believe that people can pretty much accomplish whatever they set out to in their jobs’.


Respondents also scored themselves highly on productivity with 97% saying they ‘meet work/project goals as quickly as possible and to professionals and organisational standards’ and 99% consider themselves trustworthy with their client’s best interests at heart.

So how does this mode of work differ from the current employer-employment relationship? Here are a few things you’ll need to consider from a different perspective.

Reputation economy
Instead of work references or referees, you need to treat yourself like a brand. This means your reputation needs to match your abilities and any ‘client facing’ marketing—from your professional website and social media presence to previous clients who will promote you via word-of-mouth—needs to be active and relevant.

Project-based work
Instead of a 9-to-5, five-day-a-week, 48-week-a-year job, work will occur in projects and/or contract form. On the one hand this means there’s a great deal of flexibility in how you manage your career as a business both in terms of your time and the kind of work you take on; on the other, you’ll need to plan your year so you can avoid burnout and manage your income so you don’t suffer from the rollercoaster of feast and famine.

Drawn by the role
A portfolio career by its very nature is one ripe for a variety of roles. Sure, neurosurgeons will probably stick with neurosurgery but for the rest of us it’s quite possible that we will start off in one kind of role in an industry only to take on slightly different roles in complementary sectors. The benefit of this is we will be able to pick a role that we want, or work with people we want to work with, rather than being stuck in a set job with set colleagues. Employers will therefore need to make sure the role and the benefits—financial and otherwise—will attract the talent they need.

Are you ready to get down to business?


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