By Sara Gallagher or a long time, there have been only two roles to play in the American workplace: the Capitalist and the Company Man. Those with the cash, the connections, and the tolerance for risk become Capitalists. Most play the game and lose, but a lucky few build solid enterprises. The rest of us become employees of the Capitalists--Company Men and Women. We draw a steady paycheck, climb the corporate ladder, build our 401ks, and retire happy. Or we used to. The recent economic crisis has shaken our collective faith in the “Company Man” archetype. We’ve watched as bedrock American corporations have fired loyal employees en masse to cut costs. We endured wage freezes, hiring freezes, and drastic cuts in benefits and retirement packages. Dave Ramsey, the popular personal finance guru, always opens his show with this catch phrase: “Welcome to the Dave Ramsey show, where the paid-off mortgage is the new status symbol of choice!” For those of us who were the victims (and to be fair, probably also the perpetrators) of the consumer debt crisis, Ramsey’s message resonates. We want to be ready for the next economic slump, armed with our paidoff cars and canceled credit cards. We want financial security and professional stability. Yet we realize that being a “loyal employee” is no longer a sure road to what we desire. Employees work 40-60 hours
per week for employers who pay them as little as possible to do as much work as possible. They are limited to two weeks of vacation, one week of sick leave, and a few national holidays. They can be terminated at any time without notice, at least in states with “at will” employment policies.
rarely makes any one venture his or her “life’s work.” The Capitalist Gigapreneur may have a hand in many ventures over a lifetime, often simultaneously. This approach mitigates risk by spreading one’s eggs over many baskets, and learning to sell or abandon every venture at an op-
“Tenure has given way to tenacity. The era of freelancers, contractors, consultants, bloggers, and other “gigapreneurs” has commenced.” In light of the “revelation” that employees are being duped en masse, people are starting to view their career through the lens of “gigonomics,” viewing their job as just another gig rather than as a long-term career. Tenure has given way to tenacity. The era of freelancers, contractors, consultants, bloggers, and other gigapreneurs has commenced. What’s interesting is that this new class of gigapreneurs still come in two varieties. The one we hear most about closely resembles the traditional Capitalist, and is particularly common among Gen Y. This type of gigapreneur shares the Capitalist’s desire to build, create, and have ownership in his or her work. But unlike the traditional Capitalist, the gigapreneur variety
portune time. Only occasionally does the Capitalist Gigapreneur find a project interesting and profitable enough to stick with for the long haul. In one of my early posts, I compared these “chronic” startups to Prada bags. They cost a lot of money. They make the owner look good. And they’re often empty inside. That was a little harsh. Many Capitalist Gigapreneurs are quite brilliant, and the multiplicity of their projects allow them to learn faster than a traditional entrepreneur, who often works in corporate life for many years before venturing off on their own. Like the traditional Capitalist, Capitalist Gigapreneurs still represent a small segment of the population. Most of us will continue to
work for others because we’re uncomfortable with the financial risk of self-employment. But the concept of “employee loyalty” has changed--and indeed, must--in order for corporate workers to obtain the security and upward mobility corporate life once promised to provide. Enter the Corporate Gigapreneur. Corporate Gigapreneurs have come to understand that all employees are capitalists. They also understand that prior to the recent economic collapse, very few of us understood that. Employees have a product to sell (themselves) and a target market. As is the case with business ownership, there is danger in assuming too narrow a target market. Many employees mistakenly believe that their target market is their current employer. This is only partially true. It may be your objective to stay with your current employer for as long as possible; this is usually a wise decision from a business perspective. The corporate ladder is easier to climb when you enjoy longevity and trust with your employer. Long tenure also allows you to maximize income from profit sharing and retirement plans through your employer. But employees need to consider widening their target market to potential and future employers as well, or they’re likely to find themselves in a bad spot the next time the economy takes a nosedive. This requires establishing and marketing your personal brand, not just within your current
circle, but to potential employers, colleagues within your industry, and other people who do similar work. Corporate Gigapreneurs understand that they must market their product through a constantly updated resume, stellar references, industry experience, social connections, a LinkedIn profile, a blog, an e-book, and/or their business cards. Like a venture capitalist, they scan the economic horizon for opportunities to gain expertise, talent, and skills that will make their “product” valuable to potential customers (employers) down the road. Corporate Gigapreneurs may look, on the outside, like a Company Man (or woman) but they are “gigapreneurs” in the sense that they frequently take on additional work (paid or unpaid), projects, causes, hobbies, and education to hedge their bets against layoffs, company failures, and boredom. Corporate Gigapreneurs have options; they don’t have to stay at a job they don’t love because their services, abilities, and experience are worth a premium to many customers. I’ve noticed another thing about Corporate Gigapreneurs as well. They may be an HR specialist, an engineer, a marketing professional, or a secretary--but regardless of their specific role to play within the company, they always have a broad understanding of the way a business works. This is because the breadth of their experiences is so
vast. They work so many gigs that over time their worldly knowledge naturally outshines competitors. This is why in economic trouble, they have the least difficulty making a career change or transitioning into a new industry. Because they’ve spent so much time developing and marketing their brand to others, interviewing is a cinch. People believe that the Corporate Gigapreneur will work their magic no matter where, in what position, or in what industry they are employed. And they’re right. This blog, at its core, is about exploring the workplace experience. I like to think about what work feels like to an hourly worker vs. a salaried worker; a capitalist vs. an employee; a Gen Yer to a Traditionalist. But peripherally, this blog is a resource for Corporate Gigapreneurs in the making. It is a place to think and talk about how to run your “business.” I blog about developing your brand, marketing it to others, building a resume, navigating office politics, mangaging and leading others. My writing is, in its majority, descriptive rather than prescriptive. Unlike a traditional capitalist, a Gigapreneur takes very little knowledge as established or immutable. I hope that you enjoy the blog enough to join the discussion. Leave comments, send me mail, or posts that you would like me to publish. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Tenure has given way to tenacity. The era of freelancers, contractors, consultants, bloggers, and other "gigapreneurs" has commenced.