You've been having a tough time finding a job, and the longer it takes, the more obstacles you face. Your last job's end date has become more distant, and you aren't seeing any reason to be optimistic about landing something permanent anytime soon.
If this describes you, it could be time to shift gears and stop looking for a job in favor of starting your own consulting firm or business. Is the writing on the wall, but you aren't seeing it? Consider the following signs that you should re-focus your energies and start thinking about working for yourself.
1. Hiring independents is on the rise. Independent workers (people working 15 or more hours per week as freelancers, contractors, or business owners) are part of a fast-growing sector of our workforce. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) frequently shares research showcasing these trends. For example, Author and Workplace Researcher Tammy Erickson's HBR post highlights data from the temporary placement service provider Adecco, illustrating that contingent (temporary) workers will grow at three to four times the rate of the traditional workforce in the future. Whitney L. Johnson, author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, had a recent post on HBR noting there are currently around 17 million independent workers, which is expected to rise to 23 million by 2017.
On her blog, Workplace author and Columnist Alexandra Levit recently shared data from technology firm Mavenlink that shows the number of self-employed, independent service firms, solopreneurs, and temporary workers grew by an estimated 4.3 million workers since 1995. The contingent workforce is expected to grow to 40 percent, or 64.9 million, by 2020.
While it's not always a good idea to follow the crowd when it comes to your career, these data suggest it may be time to think about how to market yourself as a business of one.
2. A lack of jobs or hiring freezes in your field. It's tough to land a job in the midst of hiring freezes. If your industry is hard hit by the economy or in a state of flux, it's likely hiring freezes will affect your ability to land a new job—or even a promotion. It may be time to leverage a new idea you've been considering into a new business plan.
3. Projects are going to contractors. Most trends don't manifest overnight, but sometimes employees don't notice them until it's too late to respond. Look around: Is your organization contracting with freelancers to get things done? If it is, it's likely competitors are doing the same thing.
When organizations cannot squeeze another drop of productivity from their already stretched-thin workforces and they look to outside, temporary help in lieu of on-ramping new, permanent employees, that's a sign to take seriously. It may be time to start thinking about being on the receiving side of the trend and to hang your own shingle.
4. You need a new challenge. Not all signs suggesting it's time to start a business come from your industry. Take a good, hard look at your own goals, skills, and what you want to accomplish in your career. If you don't see opportunities to get things done in companies where you might land jobs, it may be time to start your own gig.
5. Controlling your work environment is important to you. The recent news from Yahoo demanding that employees who work from home report to the office highlights how tides can turn. Whether or not Yahoo's move is a trend matters less than how important it is for you to be able to dictate your own schedule and work environment. The only way to be sure you maintain control over your work environment is to work for yourself.
6. Working for yourself is the new job security. With millions of workers serving as employees at will, subject to layoffs and reductions in force at the drop of a hat, traditional, or "corporate" jobs no longer offer the type of income security that people once thought. Assuming you can ramp up your own small business and attract some returning clients, it's likely that having your own company with varied income streams is actually a safer bet than relying on one organization for your income.
Don't be the last one to the entrepreneur party. Whether starting a business is something you've always wanted to do, or you're thinking of going that route because you're having trouble finding work, you should start planning now to prepare yourself to succeed in the new economy.
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 and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.