2017 Personal Branding Trends, Part 2: The Proliferation Of The Free Agent
I write about personal branding.
Here’s part 2 of my personal branding trends for 2017. If you missed it, here’s part 1.
There has been a lot of talk about corporate employees transforming into free agents. Dan Pink identified this emerging trend way back in 2002 in his prophetic book Free Agent Nation.The rise of independent professionals has been steady but not rapid. Well, it’s about to move into the fast lane. It’s accelerating because of the need for companies to be nimble, combined with the vast number of millennials in the workforce.
Own Your Career
Making the move to being a free agent means taking responsibility for your career development, building new skills, and staying on top of rapid changes. Corporate employees have slowly been getting used to the fact that it is now their job to manage their career. The days of employer-sponsored professional development are numbered. The free agent nation shifts those duties to the employee. Grand prescriptive training programs are being replaced by more in-the-moment learning.
According to Kelly Palmer, CLO of Degreed.com and author of an upcoming book on this subject, “Classroom training for a lot of skill building is being replaced by more and more informal learning: videos, podcasts, books, articles, online curated content, and peer recommended content. Learning is becoming much more personalized and learner centric. When you think of learning in this way, it becomes part of your daily work routine and is incorporated into the work you already do and not something that is separate from work.”
The onus is on the individual to take control of his/her career development. Palmer went on to say, “People should learn in the context of their career goals, and that is unique for every person. People should think about what their career goals are and then create a learning path that is personalized to their specific objectives.”
Be Real As You Become Virtual
Another seismic result of the free agent economy is the rapid move away from the office as the central hub for business. The benefits of having a truly virtual workforce are too great to ignore – even for highly traditional bricks-and-mortar companies. Huge cost savings on facilities are coupled with the ability to hire the best people for the job, regardless of whether they live next door or across the country.
According to Brie Reynolds, Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs, “Remote work was definitely a big story in 2016, and we don't expect it to slow down in 2017. In the United States in 2016, 38 percent of employees say they are able to work from home at least one day a week, up from 23 percent in 2008. 80 to 90 percent of working Americans would like to work remotely at least part time. And 68 percent said they expect to work remotely instead of commute to an office everyday. In 2017, as more companies adopt remote work, and more people share what it’s like to work remotely, we expect to see more people working this way. It’s especially interesting to see that a big majority of people expect to work remotely instead of commuting to an office every day. It may be that we are moving beyond the tipping point – where remote work is seen as a standard way of working, rather than a perk.”
Prepare For Your Five-star Rating
Think of this as Yelp for the workforce. No, I’m not predicting a society like the one depicted in “Nosedive” (the British Anthology Black Mirror episode showing the damage that can be done by rating each other in social media). And it is not exactly like the controversial Peeple app. But being publicly rated and ranked for your professional capacity is already happening, and it will soon become a common practice.
Freelancers on sites like Upwork are already accustomed to being evaluated by their clients and having those evaluations publicly displayed. As we all move more and more into the free agent mode, we should expect some kind of rating scale to help others make choices about whether or not we are the right person to work with.
It’s commonplace for us to check reviews for the products we buy. According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Do you buy a major appliance without checking the rating and number of raters? Well, hiring an employee or a consultant has at least as much impact as buying a new cooktop. As workers loosen the tethers to their employers and and begin to move more fluidly from being employed to being consultants – and as they work for employers on contract vs. as employees – the need is there to help decision makers form an opinion of you.
When Phil Dubost created his resume in the form of an Amazon product page featuring a 5-star rating, people found it clever and novel, but it was not just a one-time creative event; it was aharbinger. Public external evaluation may scare you, but it’s already well underway. For example, the endorsements feature at LinkedIn helps us evaluate and quantify the skills professionals possess. “She has been endorsed 99-plus times for project management so she must be a good project manager.”
Claim Your Virtual Turf
Like it or not, you need a home on the web. And for many of us, our professional home base in the virtual world is LinkedIn. With all the enhancements LinkedIn has added in the past two years – including customizing your background, allowing you to incorporate multimedia content, rearranging sections of your profile, etc. – this social media tool provides an incredibly valuable venue for telling the world who you are in a professional capacity. This trend in customization willcontinue, and new places will arrive like branded.me – where you can more fully customize your content and design so it truly reflects the real you.
With the continued rise of LinkedIn as the de facto career management standard, the site will become even more customizable – almost making resumes obsolete. A recent New York Times article on getting into college indicates that LinkedIn even delivers a competitive edge for high-school students: “Public schools from San Francisco to New York City are teaching online conduct skills as part of a nationwide digital citizenship push to prepare students for colleges and careers. Teenagers who set up LinkedIn profiles in the hope of enhancing their college prospects represent the vanguard of this trend.”
William Arruda is the cofounder of CareerBlast and author of 13 Things All Successful Professionals Do To Fuel Their Careers.