(This is part 2 of a 2-part series. Part one can be found here.)
3) Build Free Agent Skills
So what sort of skills are highly useful in this free-agent era?
Skills which maximize your ability to be independent – skills which can allow you to be highly mobile and flexible.
Here are three really strategic ones you can work on:
a) Learn How To Learn Real Fast
Two common realities of the free agent era: there’s always something new to learn, and you have to learn it fast. If you learn things fast, then you can work in vuitually any condition and won’t be a victim of obsolescense.
Adapt and live.
So don’t get married to a skill set (especially technical ones, which get obsolete fast). Learn how to acquire skills fast, especially the tricky personal ones, like negotiation, leading, and reading people. Read up on current trends in your industry of choice. Read books (I can’t recommend an Audible membership enough). Talk to experts and be conscious of your learning process.
Here’s something which I think won’t change anytime soon: people will buy stuff.
This is how every person, every company, survives.
If you know how to sell – yourself, your ideas, your products, your vision – then that is a HUGE advantage in the free agent world.
If you’re going to have to move UPWARD from company to company, if you’re going to be a great entrepreneur, if you’re going to be an awesome freelancer (really still an entrepreneur), then you’re going to have to get people to BUY what you have to offer.
There is an art and science on how to do this. (and a great amount of literature) Start learning now.
Know-who trumps know-how.
I think this is a very obvious characteristic of all the highly successful people I know thriving in the free-agent era – they’ve built great personal networks.
A great network can act like a great parachute in the free agent world.
You got downsized? Good thing you know that HR Director who happened to have job openings.
Your new company is low on funds? Good thing you know a few investors who can give you a bit of help.
But a great network does so much more than be an insurance. I think its a crucial element for those who really want to thrive in the free agent era.
Looking at it from an entrepreneur’s lens, the free agent era is an era of humungous opportunity. The very elements which are disrupting big businesses are the very same elements creating great opportunity. There are SO many industries undergoing disruption.
The MORE people you know, the MORE information you garner about these opportunities, the more likely you can spot those which suit you.
Then you just pounce.
4) Build a Brand
Let’s say you have two people of exactly the same competency level vying for a marketing manager position.
One person has a marketing blog where he shares his thoughts on best practices regarding his job. He has an updated and comprehensive Linkedin account, and he is a member of several marketing-related groups.
If you google his name, the whole first page is filled with marketing stuff he’s written about and intelligent dialogues with peers.
The other person, meanwhile, isn’t so active. When you google his name, only a few entries come up.
Who do you think gets the job?
Think about it folks, every time you apply for something – a job, a co-founder role, a partnership, a contract – you WILL get googled and investigated.
Use this to your advantage. Build a brand around your strengths and interests.
I can’t tell you how much running this blog has helped me get into contact with several key people, or even get new clients to say they read my blog on sales meetings when I represent STORM.
In the free agent era, there are hundreds of people vying for the same things. Stand out by building your brand.
5) Get away from the herd
I think this is the most important piece of advice in this post.
In case you haven’t noticed, the herd gets ultimately marginalized (a bit ironic if you think about it).
What do most graduates do?
They look for a job in corporate, most without even thinking what they truly want.
They look for the highest bidder.
They will spend 3-4 years and then move on to another firm, moving again in another 3-4 years. )This cycle is markedly faster in the BPO industry.)
Perhaps most are even unaware they are in this groupthink cycle.
You want to standout?
Think and act differently.
Zig when the herd zags.
The free agent era rewards uniqueness and being special. Embrace what makes you special (yes, we each have unique God-given gifts which make us special) and get away from the herd. Don’t be afraid of the slight separation anxiety you might feel separating from the pack.
The free agent era obviously loves free agents. (and isn’t so nice to herds) So the best advice I can give in the free agent era?
Go and be one.
(Know anyone who would especially resonate with this post? Be a blessing and share!)