Friday, February 8, 2008

Adult workers, and happy for it.

I grew up jaded by the experience of those of my father's friends who were top executives in their 50's who, one after another, found the last 5-10 years of their careers derailed by employers who laid off, fired, or downsized them. Whatever the reason in each case - and at the time, in the 80's, that reason was often age discrimination and/or replacing a six-figure executive with a kid at half that pay grade - the result was the same: these guys had lived their lives by the lie that if you work hard, take your lumps, and pay your dues, you will be rewarded and looked after by your company.

Maybe life worked that way before this era, but that is so far a thing of the past by now, it is beyond quaint - it's just hard to imagine anyone buying it these days. Yet I think we all know plenty of people who do. It's sad, actually.

That's why I see self-employment as the only mature decision. This is not to say that one cannot work for a corporation at times in his or her career, but to risk one's livelihood and (often) sense of self worth on the caprices of others higher-up... I don't want to seem mean, but that is not a wise choice.

The bad news is, we can't act like good school kids anymore, and expect the authority figures in our lives to take care of us in exchange for our autonomy. The good news is, if we manage our own lives well, there are so many companies looking for outside "consultant" and "contractor" help to augment the in-house payroll, and there are so many opportunities for professionals to work with employers as clients instead, that I think this "bad news" is actually liberating.

I was just at lunch today with a business owner who was in sales with RCA when GE bought it. Not enjoying the GE culture, he asked his boss if he could quit, start his own company, and provide the same sales service for less money as an outsourced service provider. His boss fired him, then signed up with him as requested as his first and biggest client. Why work for the man when you can work for yourself and help the man, making more money and employing others in the process?