Advice to the Re-Employed: Think Freelance

Imagine for a moment (and this may not be a stretch for many readers) that you’ve been self-employed for a year or so after a layoff put you out on the streets. You’ve put a decent freelance or consulting career together, gotten hip to the value of personal branding, and learned or relearned the enormous value of autonomy in your work life.

Now, though, you’ve had a tempting job offer you’d be crazy not to take, so you do.

Do you stop thinking like a freelancer and start acting like an employee? Twenty years ago, your answer probably would have been yes. Certainly that would have been your new employer’s expectation.

Today, though, there’s a good chance you would take your free-agent mentality into your new job, and with your new boss’s blessing.

Two blog posts today brought this to mind, one from the employee’s point of view, the other from management’s.

Seth Godin’s challenge to the employed is not to realize that you work for yourself—which you should know by now—but to start acting like it. As he reminds us, “the idea that you are a faceless cog in a benevolent system that cares about you and can’t tell particularly whether you are worth a day’s pay or not, is, like it or not, over.”

And Dan Pink, in a fantastic animated presentation highlighted today by Adam Tinworth, tells management that what motivates employees isn’t money, but three key personal factors: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. As he shows, the self-directed employee is the most productive and creative.

So if you find yourself in this scenario, think of your new job as an extended self-employment gig. In both good ways and bad, that may be exactly what your new employer is expecting.