Not all of us dream of owning our own businesses . Not all of us have a personal goal of working for ourselves.
Then, again, some of us have been displaced or have watched our businesses become less and less profitable over time. Out of necessity, practicality and a need for cash flow in our lives, we are working for someone else. Either for the first time or once again.
Let’s face it. Employment is good and some employment is better than other employment. You may be recent engineering and IT/technical graduates looking for your first opportunities, newbies experiencing your first engineering jobs, or “seasoned” individuals currently employed under contract or as a permanent employee. Regardless of your place in the continuum, understanding why you work for other people can be an important part of your career development and the value you bring to your company’s table.
The nature and concept of the workforce is changing. Contractual employees as well as virtual employees may become the norm for certain industries, per my recent January 27, 2011 post. And you just may have the persona that lends itself to creating a successful career as a productive serial employee. ( A caveat here: I’m not condoning those employees who have a history of not being able to hold a job. There are other factors at work in this latter scenario that are outside the scope of this blog.)
US engineering schools are looking at a globally diverse undergraduate and graduate student composition. And they are trying to retain these graduates as a means of human resource / asset management. Otherwise there’s a big brain drain. (“Global and Virtual Teamwork”, Aditya Johri, J Eng Educ (Washington, D.C.) 99 no1 Jan 2010). And that works for engineering and technical needs going both ways across both oceans. This aspect needs to be a strong consideration of business planning for companies hiring permanent and contracted employees.
With this changing employment paradigm within the technical communities, ask yourself why you want to work for someone else. Surely working for others reduces your personal and professional overhead. The employer assumes most of the risk (including liability), even if you don’t receive benefits (unless you’ve negotiated those benefits). The employer has an established business base from which to draw revenue, which saves you the trouble of rustling bushes and beating the pavement, email and phone to establish your professional reputation and win business. You have defined responsibilities, against which you should excel. While you may be on a set contract, you should use this opportunity as a means of fine-tuning the aspects of business and technical expertise which are of interest to you, while not short-changing your employer in those areas which aren’t your cup of tea.
We have all have been in a situation where we grow frustrated working for others. We want “something more” and look outside the box for answers. We feel we could do a better job of running the business. For those of you in this situation, I encourage you to understand ALL that is required to finance and implement a business before you make that judgment. There’s a lot on business owners’ plates from the git go. You don’t just set yourself up as a figurehead leader and expect things to fall in place. If you are frustrated, learn about the infrastructure, dynamics and discipline of running a business instead of getting sidetracked by personalities and water-cooler politics.
The contracted technical workforce should always looking for their next job opportunity because there is no guarantee of the contract turning into permanent employment. Even if you work for an agency which places engineers and technical professionals. No matter what your current employer told you. In fact there is no guarantee that permanent employees are guaranteed their jobs, either.
It’s up to you to identify available resources who will help you develop the knowledge and skillsets which provide value to your current employer as well as future employers. Engineers and IT professionals with business acumen, who have cross-trained as undergraduates and graduates, and who are comfortable working virtually and globally may have a distinct advantage as the paradigm of the workforce changes. And this goes for community college graduates and individuals attending technical training schools, as well.
And besides, having a broader context in which to place your technical expertise can only be a plus if you decide, after all, that you have entrepreneurial tendencies.
Think about it.