Working Nomad
The Changing Definition of "Job"

The concept of "getting a job" has changed forever as a result of Web 2.0 technology, the Internet and the global economy. At one time, "job" simply meant showing up every day at the same place, sitting at a desk for eight hours to execute specified tasks, and then repeating the process daily for the next thirty years. Not so any more.


The "job" today is a much more impermanent proposition, and while frightening to the uninitiated, works to the advantage of the extreme telecommuter.

 

The most important dynamic is the increasing trend towards outsourcing and out-tasking. Rather than maintaining a huge on-premises staff to do every task imaginable, companies find it more efficient to focus more on their core mission and use contracting firms to handle everything else. Those contracting firms may be very large outsourcing agencies with multiple offices and thousands of employees, or they may be single individuals working out of a home office. Rather than lament the inevitable trend of outsourcing, an extreme telecommuter embraces it as an opportunity to go far beyond the traditional notion of what a job should be. Instead of working for a single company, doing a single task for thirty years, an extreme telecommuter may work for multiple companies, selling his or her labor and skills to the highest bidder, moving from job to job and enjoying the ability to work remotely from any mountaintop in the world.


Naturally, there is resistance, and those who will cling to the idea of a long-term, exclusive employer/employee relationship. "Job security" is an old-fashioned notion though, and in fact, never really existed. Providing a lifetime employment guarantee runs counter to a capitalist, free-market economy, and in the end, does not work and should never be relied upon. Consider the massive number of layoffs in the industrial sector, and the thousands of workers who thought that the steel mill or auto plant they worked at for would last forever.


In today's recessionary economy especially, it just doesn't pay to depend exclusively on a single employer. When that single employer goes under or starts cutting staff, then you are left with nothing. An extreme telecommuter who services multiple clients has a different proposition. When one client goes under or cuts staff, there are still four or five left, and so revenue, even though it may be diminished somewhat, still keeps coming in. The concept of lifetime job security had its advantages, but in reality, has never been practical, and those few countries that have tried it, failed miserably. The future will see a greater trend towards job mobility, and more individuals serving multiple companies at once from remote locations as opposed to having just a single employer.


The first great "dotcom boom" ushered in this great change in attitude. During that time, those involved in the tech industry never expected an employer to last more than a few years. For the first time in history, job longevity was seen as a negative, and applicants with five or ten employers on their resume were no longer derided as "job hoppers"; rather, they were seen as cutting-edge innovators. Today's economy takes this attitude a step even further, as the necessity to be tied to a single employer at all is disappearing.


This new model of employment is made possible by several enabling technologies, including virtual private networks (VPNs), which have given way to the concept of entire "virtual companies" that have no central office at all. Simple technologies like instant messaging, e-mail and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) have added to the mix; and collaborative technologies like private wikis and shared whiteboards now make it possible for a group of people to collaborate on a project over great distances. Additionally, B2B platforms like elance.com and guru.com establish a central location where providers and buyers can meet, creating a global platform to help each provider establish his or her ever-changing sphere of influence.


The most appropriate 21st century job hunting strategy is to create your own, and for the first time in history, this enabling technology has made this possible for many people.