Free Agency is Not Just for Athletes Anymore

Allegiance to Family and Self

“We work hard and we play even harder.”  Ever hear that expression when interviewing for a job? To me that creates an automatic pass from me.  The reason is that I put myself ahead of the company and that expression is code for putting the company first.  I know it may seem selfish to state that I put myself first.  I also put my family and my friends before a company.  You may have similar priorities than I.  You may not.    If you do put the company first and have been laid off than you have experienced the great shock of the reality that it was unrequited love.

Recently I watched an intriguing video regarding thoughts on how to fix the US economy.  Within the video was the comment from the Carl Camden, the CEO of Kelly Services, that 25% of the US workforce are “free agents” and within the next decade 50% of the workforce would be free agents.

Free Agency = More Responsibility

Long gone are the days that a person would graduate high school and get a job that could last until their retirement.  The classic retirement gold watch is not waiting for any of us. Although you may have great relationships with management, their responsibility is to the investors and the company as a whole.  Decisions will be made that ensure investors will reap good returns and that the company will survive and thrive.  These decisions can and will include layoffs from time to time.  Thinking that your job can be gone at any time initially may be frightening but I am going to argue that it is inspiring.   It can inspire us to keep learning and staying marketable.

Staying Marketable

What additional training can you take that is new to your industry?  Experienced marketers have not been formally trained in Internet marketing until recently.  The marketer who has kept ahead of changes to her industry went to conferences and seminars, and took courses on the topic.  Her colleagues who have not are most likely on the unemployment line and taking those courses now to reenter the marketing profession.    What changes are going on in your industry that you should learn more about?  What new job/industry do you want to learn especially if it is one that builds on your current experience?  The job you have today may not exist tomorrow.  Or may be greatly diminished in size.  Ask bank tellers and travel agents if their jobs are at the same volume as in the 1990s.


It is estimated that a new college grad will have 7- 10 jobs within her career.  Assuming you will work for 40 years than you can estimate each job will last 4-6 years.  So it’s not as if you have to be in training all 40 years of your career but you do need to be listening and learning to the outside world.  Don’t become the next casualty because you didn’t realize your industry was a dying one.   If you had worked for a typewriting company in the 1970s, would you have been ready for the demand for personal computers in the 80s and 90s that created the demise of your industry?  Or would you have been shocked when you lost your job as the lights were being turned off at your company? If you work in the landline telephone industry would you be one of the workers who recently went on strike asking for job security.  The strike proved unsuccessful as union workers went back to work without a new contract.  The reality of shrinking landline demand must have hit home. Instead of seeking job security, the union would serve its members much better if it worked out a proactive retraining program that prepares members for the inevitable decrease in workforce instead of the standard reactive retraining which typically occurs after a layoff.   You won’t wait for the company or the union to figure out how to help you if you have a free-agency mindset.  You will be looking for better opportunities periodically to make sure you are taking care of yourself and your family.

Negotiating and Free Agency

The monetary lose you will experience by not negotiating your salary will rarely be replenished because you sacrificed for your current employer or gave up another opportunity or waited for the company to be fair to you.  With the free-agency mindset,  you will take every opportunity to earn what the work is worth and provide the work to your employer.

Do you feel more daring to negotiate now that you know that no job is permanent and you know your priority is not the company but your family and yourself?

© Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited