You may have already noticed: the job market is changing. Forecasters have been predicting this for years, and research continues to prove the contingent—otherwise known as temporary, or contract—workforce, is growing. Author Tammy Erickson writes on Harvard Business Review's blog: "Temporary placement service provider Adecco predicts the growth rate for contingent workers will be three to four times the growth rate among traditional workforces, and that they eventually will make up about 25 percent of the global workforce."
Career expert Alexandra Levit recently reported on technology firm Mavenlink's 2012 infographic, The New Independent Workforce, which shows the number of self-employed, independent service firms, solopreneurs, and temporary workers grew by an estimated 4.3 million workers since 1995. The firm expects the contingent workforce to grow to 40 percent, or 64.9 million by 2020. And by the year 2020, 40 percent of American workers, or nearly 65 million people, will not work in what we know as "traditional" jobs, where they work consistently for one employer who provides benefits and insurance.
What does this new world of work mean for you? Even if you have a traditional job now, you may find yourself in a position down the road where your livelihood depends on your ability to market yourself as a one-person company. The writing is on the wall: the job market and career opportunities are changing—you need to be prepared.
Follow these three tips to get yourself ready for the new job market:
1. Pay attention to trends in your industry. Try to predict hot topics and identify problems organizations will need to solve. Since no one has a crystal ball, this is a tough assignment. Instead of maintaining an insular approach to your job and focusing on your company alone, make a point to spend time evaluating what is going on industry-wide. Join online forums or groups, attend events to network with professionals in your field, and read everything you can in print and online discussing your niche.
When you incorporate this research into your daily and weekly routines, you'll begin to see trends; people will raise the same concerns over and over again, and you will have a head's up about key topics flummoxing your colleagues.
2. Develop niche expertise. When you're really good at something specific, it's easy to make a case for why an organization should contract with you for short- or long-term contingent jobs. It's much easier to stand out from the crowd when you specialize in a particular area and people know you as the go-to expert in your field. Ideally, your expertise will relate to the big problems puzzling people in your industry. Consider seeking additional training—either formal schooling or informal mentoring—to help you learn how to help people with the major problems coming down the pike.
3. Learn to market yourself. The concept of "personal branding," which suggests individuals should think of themselves as a brand and market their skills accordingly, meets skepticism and criticism. But if 25 to 40 percent of American workers will effectively work for themselves in the near future, there is no doubt the ones who land the best opportunities will be those who understand the value of broadcasting their expertise beyond the four walls of their current workplaces. How can you get a head start, so you'll have a chance to be considered an industry expert should you ever need to market yourself as a consultant?
- Learn to introduce yourself and focus on your target's needs. Do you know your unique value proposition, or what makes you special compared to others in your field? If not, it's time to think about what you'd say if someone asked you, "How are you more qualified to do this job than the other 200 applicants?"
- Tap into social networks, which allow you to meet new contacts, demonstrate your expertise, and learn new things. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook are all great tools to help you showcase what you know and engage with people you'd never otherwise meet.
Don't be complacent; always think about the future and how to position yourself and your expertise if you want to maintain any control over your professional future.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.