Shortly after it appeared, ten years ago this month, I read Daniel Pink’s Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself. The book described a growing number of people including many professionals who are competent and highly trained but who pursue “project-based careers” on their own, independent of any company or full-time positions. Today about 16 million Americans fit this description and the numbers are quickly growing elsewhere, including Europe and China. Pink’s book showed me that I was (still am) one of these free agent workers some of whom an article in Harvard Business Review (May 2012) describes as supertemps.
Some supertemps are victims of an economy that took their jobs. Others became supertemps voluntarily. No longer limited to lower-level, unskilled workers, many are highly talented, well-trained, experienced individuals who value the autonomy and flexibility of temporary, project-based work. Their numbers include office-workers, accountants, adjunct professors, top managers, CEOs, interim pastors, corporation leaders, doctors and lawyers. These people value flexibility but want to stay active in their fields. Probably anybody can be a supertemp but the ones who do best are those whose professional and other skills are already at a high level. There are no worker benefits but the hassles and politics of traditional jobs are largely gone as well. These may be the best jobs around and companies increasingly are looking to hire short-term specialists.
Initially I decided not to write about supertemps. There is risk in this and not everyone has the personality to work independently and without job security. But this is a “new employment phenomenon,” says HBR, growing in popularity, increasingly accepted and likely to change how we work. Counselors and other leaders are joining the supertemp ranks. Maybe educators and coaches should be showing others how to be supertemps and private practitioners.
Prospective supertemps need to define their skills clearly and be able to articulate what they offer. They need skill in selling their services, the ability to build networks, and the determination and discipline to work independently.
Do you know any supertemps? Are you a supertemp yourself? As a Christian what do you think of this concept? Please comment.